New goal for science after 'God particle'
They may have only just found the elusive 'God particle', but physicists behind the world's most expensive science experiment are already setting their sights on a new challenge -- solving the mystery of dark matter.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the Cern laboratory, near Geneva, is to undergo a €1.5bn upgrade at the end of the decade to allow scientists to probe one of the greatest puzzles of the universe.
Physicists believe dark matter is the enigmatic material that holds the universe together. Yet, while it makes up 84 per cent of all matter and is all around us, it has never been seen by scientists as it does not produce or reflect light.
Now scientists hope that a 10-fold boost to the power of the beams of particles being smashed together inside Cern's 17-mile-long tunnels will allow them to create and detect dark matter.
Plans approved by the governing body of Cern will see its particle smasher being closed down for at least two years.
It comes after Cern physicists last week announced the discovery of a new particle they believe could be the elusive Higgs boson, thought to be responsible for giving other particles their mass.
Although there is still much work to be done on the Higgs boson, the milestone has left many at Cern worried that the public and funders will feel their work is now complete.
Dr David Evans, a particle physicist at the University of Birmingham and a lead researcher at Cern, said: "Almost all of the attention has been on the Higgs boson, but really that is only one small part of what the LHC is able to do.
"There is the potential for dozens more discoveries over the next 10 years, and that is before the major shutdown at the end of the decade."
Experiments will continue until the end of this year, when the LHC will close for 20 months for repairs.
Scientists hope that the 2020 upgrade, dubbed "super-LHC", will let them see some of the rarest particles of all.