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RHIC's 14th Run — Spotlight on Advanced Capabilities

Mike Meyers

Technician checks components of stochastic cooling "kickers," which will produce a dramatic increase in collision rates.

If you think it's been cold outside this winter, that's nothing compared to the deep freeze setting in at the Lab’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), our early-universe-recreating "atom smasher." Brookhaven's accelerator physicists have begun pumping liquid helium into RHIC's 1,740 superconducting magnets to chill them to near absolute zero (-273 degrees Celsius — the coldest anything can get) in preparation for the collider's next physics run. 

Once that extreme subzero temperature is reached, enabling the magnets to operate with zero energy loss, the physicists will begin injecting beams of gold ions and steering them into head-on collisions at nearly the speed of light. Those collisions create temperatures at the opposite extreme of the temperature scale — 4 trillion degrees Celsius, or 250,000 times hotter than the center of the sun — to produce RHIC's signature "perfect" liquid quark-gluon plasma, a stand in for what the universe was like an instant after the Big Bang. During this experimental run, the 14th at this nuclear physics scientific user facility, scientists will conduct detailed studies of the primordial plasma's properties and fill in some missing data points to plot its transition to the matter we see in the universe today.

"This run will feature the full complement of accelerator and detector upgrades that constitute the 'RHIC II' program — a dramatic improvement in machine performance that was achieved at a small fraction of the cost and half a decade earlier than originally anticipated," said Berndt Mueller, Brookhaven's Associate Laboratory Director for Nuclear and Particle Physics. "It is particularly fortuitous that we received good budget news that will enable us to take full advantage of these advanced capabilities with 22 weeks of total running time," he said.

"The new technologies being implemented in the accelerator and detectors at RHIC for Run 14 are truly state of the art, in many ways leapfrogging capabilities at Europe's Large Hadron Collider (LHC)," said Mueller. Many of these advances will find application in future upgrades at LHC and elsewhere.

To learn more about Run 14 and the improved capabilities at RHIC visit

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