The boss of the European particle physics laboratory has said he is seeing positive signals about the possibility of Ireland joining CERN research centre.

Speaking to RTÉ News at the Euroscience Open Forum in Copenhagen, Rolf Dieter Heuer said a recent visit by Minister of State for Research, Sean Sherlock, to CERN had been very successful.

Ireland is currently not a member of CERN.

However, there is a growing lobby for Ireland to join because of the scientific and commercial benefits it would bring.

Professor Heuer said Minister Sherlock's visit gave him an insight into the main benefits membership would bring for Ireland, including engineering and technology transfer.

He also said there would be opportunities in staff positions, short and long term contracts and commercial opportunities.

He said he took the visit of the minister, and a task force the minister set up to examine the pros and cons of membership, as a positive signal.

He said the bottom-up appeal by students for Ireland to join is also very welcome, as young people want to be more closely related with the centre.

Professor Heuer said the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will be up and running again, on schedule, in January of next year and should be doing physics again by Easter.

After that it will run for another three years at double its previous power, before being shut down for further maintenance.

The 27km long particle accelerator, which is the largest and most powerful in the world, was responsible for finding the Higgs Boson particle in 2012.

The Higgs Boson is the particle that gives all matter mass.

The LHC is currently undergoing a two year maintenance programme.

Prof Heuer said over the past 16 months the LHC had been opened up at each of its 10,000 magnet interconnections so they could be reinforced.

He said smaller accelerators which feed particles into the LHC are already back up and running and the cooling down process has already begun.

Senior physicist at CERN, Fabiola Gianotti, said once the LHC is up and running again, it would be used to get to understand the Higgs Boson particle better.

She said physicists would be exploring how the Higgs Boson interacts with other particles, and would address questions around anti-matter and dark matter.

She said they would also explore whether such questions could be answered at the energy scale of the LHC, or whether a bigger more powerful accelerator is needed.

Rolf Dieter-Heuer also spoke about proposals by CERN for a new super accelerator, which could be up to four times longer than the LHC.

He said such an undertaking would take 30 years to design, build and install, so the conversation has to begin now. 

He said because of its scale, it would have to be a global project.