From protons to electrons to atomic nuclei, physicists love smashing tiny stuff together. And soon, they may have an even better way to get their kicks.

A new experiment raises prospects for building a particle accelerator that collides particles called muons, which could lead to smashups of higher energies than any engineered before. Scientists with the Muon Ionization Cooling Experiment, or MICE, have cooled a beam of muons, a necessary part of preparing the particles for use in a collider, the team reports online February 5 in Nature.

To study matter at its most fundamental level, physicists smash particles together at high energies and filter through the wreckage. The strategy has revealed previously unknown particles, such as the Higgs boson (SN: 4/4/12), discovered at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, near Geneva, in 2012.

That 27-kilometer collider is already the biggest machine ever built. To keep searching for new particles, scientists must go to higher energies. The higher a collision’s energy, the heavier particles scientists might be able to discover.  Getting to higher energies requires a more powerful accelerator. So scientists are planning even bigger, badder — and pricier — versions of current colliders (SN: 1/22/19).

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Category: Science