Since its startup in 2009, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN has spent about 3 months of its operating time providing nucleus-nucleus (Pb-Pb) collisions. Peak Pb-Pb luminosity is now over 3 times design and integrated luminosity is expected to attain the initial design goal of 1 nb-1 in the 4th Pb-Pb run in late 2018. Following the demonstration of their feasibility in 2012, two one-month runs have been devoted to proton-nucleus (p-Pb) collisions in multiple conditions, with luminosity far beyond expectations. Recently, Xe-Xe collisions have also been demonstrated in a short run. All the LHC experiments now participate fully in the heavy-ion programme.
With this experience in hand, strategies to overcome physical performance limits established, and upgrades to the LHC and its injector chain in the pipeline, it is timely to take stock of the prospects and challenges for future performance of the LHC with nuclear beams.
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