Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers Get First Look Into Antimatter Atoms

Date:
October 30, 2002
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
It seems like the stuff of science fiction, but NSF-sponsored researchers working at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, have probed the properties of whole atoms of antimatter, the "mirror image" of matter, for the first time. Their results provide the first look into the inside of an antimatter atom and are a big step on the way to testing standard theories of how the universe operates.

It seems like the stuff of science fiction, but NSF-sponsored researchers working at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, have probed the properties of whole atoms of antimatter, the "mirror image" of matter, for the first time. Their results provide the first look into the inside of an antimatter atom and are a big step on the way to testing standard theories of how the universe operates.

Related Articles


Because of its instability, antimatter is notoriously hard to handle. Fast-moving or "hot" antimatter has been created for years, but previous hot anti-atoms were annihilated by collisions with matter before they could be studied. Last year the ATRAP (for Antihydrogen Trap) team led by Gerald Gabrielse of Harvard University, announced they'd pioneered methods of slowing down negatively charged antiprotons and combining them with slow positrons, the positively charged antimatter equivalent of electrons, to create an environment for forming the simplest possible anti-atom: antihydrogen.

Now the team has made the first measurements of a complete antihydrogen atom. The ATRAP team took their hard-won anti-atoms and ripped them apart with an electric field. Gabrielse explains "it's like putting the anti-atom next to a battery. The antiproton would be attracted to one terminal and the positron would be drawn to the opposite one." The researchers tweak the electric field until the atom is torn asunder; the strength of the field required indicates how tightly the anti-atom was held together. Their article describing the results will appear in Physical Review Letters in November.

These first measurements don't indicate a difference in the way antihydrogen and hydrogen are put together, but Gabrielse says to detect differences they'll need to measure anti-atoms in a more "normal" state.

Although the anti-atoms they've studied move slowly, their positrons are still excited to unusually high levels. The researchers' next step is to "de-excite" the anti-atoms so they can make comparisons to the physics of normal hydrogen atoms.

According to Gabrielse, almost everyone expects the properties of hydrogen and antihydrogen to be the same. Detecting differences, he says, would be "the biggest discovery in physics in decades" that would "require scientists to reformulate the most basic laws of physics".

Current theories predict that the universe could just as easily be made of antimatter as of matter and don't explain why our universe is made up exclusively of the latter. If the researchers find small differences in the properties of matter and antimatter, they would contradict the present paradigm and might help solve the riddle. NSF program manager Denise Caldwell from the Division of Physics says the ATRAP work is "the critical first experiment in the search for differences between matter and antimatter using antihydrogen."

Gabrielse doesn't expect the study of anti-atoms to yield new applications, but he points out that their cutting-edge studies have produced technology that improves everyday life. Magnetic traps used to hold antiparticles are now used in analyzing pharmaceuticals, and the superconducting magnets they've patented can be used in magnetic imaging. As Gabrielse puts it, "If you push reality really hard, good things always come out of it."

The National Science Foundation has sponsored the research leading up to this seminal experiment for 15 years. Gabrielse is joined in his efforts by ATRAP team members from Harvard University, the Forschungszentrum Jülich, CERN, the Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik in Garching, the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich and York University.

For more about the ATRAP collaborative effort, see: http://hussle.harvard.edu/~atrap


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Researchers Get First Look Into Antimatter Atoms." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 October 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/10/021030073823.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2002, October 30). Researchers Get First Look Into Antimatter Atoms. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/10/021030073823.htm
National Science Foundation. "Researchers Get First Look Into Antimatter Atoms." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/10/021030073823.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) — A touch-free phone developed in Israel enables the mobility-impaired to operate smart phones with just a movement of the head. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Building Google Into Cars

Building Google Into Cars

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) — Google's next Android version could become the standard that'll power your vehicle's entertainment and navigation features, Reuters has learned. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
AP Review: Nikon D750 and GoPro Hero 4

AP Review: Nikon D750 and GoPro Hero 4

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) — What to buy an experienced photographer or video shooter? There is some strong gear on the market from Nikon and GoPro. The AP's Ron Harris takes a closer look. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) — US President Barack Obama says that construction of the Keystone pipeline would have 'very little impact' on US gas prices and believes there are 'more direct ways' to create construction jobs. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins