Japan's SuperKEKB accelerator, the first particle smasher constructed since the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), has achieving its ‘first turns’ circulating beams of particles for the first time.
The £71m facility has been in development since 2010 and celebrated its first successful particle collision on 10 February 2016, when scientists circulated a beam of positrons moving close to the speed of light through a narrow tube around the 3km circumference of its main ring 10 metres underground.
Studying the particles produced in these collisions will give physicists a clearer view of the fundamental building blocks of the universe and provide new opportunities to explore physics that goes beyond today's standard model of particle physics.
Its creators say the SuperKEKB is at the forefront of what physicists call the ‘intensity frontier’ designed to deliver more than 40 times the rate of collisions between particles than its predecessor, the KEKB.
Next year, the machine will accelerate the two beams simultaneously, compress them into a smaller area than any other accelerator on Earth, then smash them together to produce copious quantities of B mesons and tau leptons – heavy particles which could uncover previously unknown areas of physics when their decay is monitored.
Scientists who have spent years designing the collider and its detectors will then spend years sifting through the scientific fruits of their efforts.
The upgraded collider is located at the KEK laboratory in Tsukuba, Japan and was designed and created by a team of Japanese accelerator physicists. It features the Belle II detector which is designed to catch the action when positrons and electrons collide. The detector weighs over 1,000,000 kg and is approximately eight metres high, wide and deep.
The detector has been designed by a team of more than 600 scientists spanning 99 institutions in 23 countries across four continents.
"Global cooperation is necessary to address the most compelling questions in particle physics," said James Siegrist, an associate director with the US Department of Energy Office of Science, which contributed to the project.
"Now nations must specialise in the facilities that they build and provide access to those facilities to physicists from around the world.
“We appreciate that Japan is hosting this world-class facility where US physicists will study rare particle interactions and look for new physics while in return contributing new state-of-the-art components to the international Belle II collaboration's detector."
CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, another particle accelerator located in Switzerland, restarted its experiments in June last year, following a two-year pause and is set to run continuously for three years.