The closure of the Large Hadron Collider has been put back by a year because the €7bn machine is running so well, it has been announced.
Scientists had been due to shut down the accelerator at the end of this year for a major refit but that has been put back until the end of 2012.
The decision means that scientists will have another year to carry out physics experiments while the machine is running at half power.
It will then shut for 15 months before reopening to run at full capacity.
“If LHC continues to improve in 2011 as it did in 2010, we’ve got a very exciting year ahead of us,” said Dr Steve Myers, CERN’s Director for Accelerators and Technology.
“The signs are that we should be able to increase the data collection rate by at least a factor of three over the course of this year.”
The beam energy for 2011 will be 3.5 TeV (trillion electron volts). It is designed to run at a maximum of 7 TeV.
Scientists believe that it may even be possible to fulfill some of its major aims – to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson or a theory called supersymmetry – at the lower power
“With the LHC running so well in 2010, and further improvements in performance expected, there’s a real chance that exciting new physics may be within our sights by the end of the year,” said Sergio Bertolucci, CERN’s Research Director.
“For example, if nature is kind to us and the lightest supersymmetric particle, or the Higgs boson, is within reach of the LHC’s current energy, the data we expect to collect by the end of 2012 will put them within our grasp.”
The schedule foresees beams back in the LHC and running through to mid December.
There will then be a short technical stop over the year before resuming in early 2012.
Even at the reduced level, the Geneva-based collider is running at more than three times the previous record.
The Large Hadron Collider sends beams of protons in opposite directions around the tunnel at close to the speed of light.
These cross and collide, smashing into each other with enormous energy.
The ultimate aim is to collide particles head-on at 14 TeV to recreate the conditions in the moments after the Big Bang, regarded as the creation of the Universe.