Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Billions Of Particles Of Anti-matter Created In Laboratory

Date:
November 18, 2008
Source:
DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Summary:
Take a gold sample the size of the head of a push pin, shoot a laser through it, and suddenly more than 100 billion particles of anti-matter appear. The anti-matter, also known as positrons, shoots out of the target in a cone-shaped plasma "jet."

Physicist Hui Chen sets up targets for the anti-matter experiment at the Jupiter laser facility.
Credit: Image courtesy of DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Take a gold sample the size of the head of a push pin, shoot a laser through it, and suddenly more than 100 billion particles of anti-matter appear. The anti-matter, also known as positrons, shoots out of the target in a cone-shaped plasma “jet.”

Related Articles


This new ability to create a large number of positrons in a small laboratory opens the door to several fresh avenues of anti-matter research, including an understanding of the physics underlying various astrophysical phenomena such as black holes and gamma ray bursts.

Anti-matter research also could reveal why more matter than anti-matter survived the Big Bang at the start of the universe.

“We’ve detected far more anti-matter than anyone else has ever measured in a laser experiment,” said Hui Chen, a Livermore researcher who led the experiment. “We’ve demonstrated the creation of a significant number of positrons using a short-pulse laser.”

Chen and her colleagues used a short, ultra-intense laser to irradiate a millimeter-thick gold target. “Previously, we concentrated on making positrons using paper-thin targets,” said Scott Wilks, who designed and modeled the experiment using computer codes. “But recent simulations showed that millimeter-thick gold would produce far more positrons. We were very excited to see so many of them.”

In the experiment, the laser ionizes and accelerates electrons, which are driven right through the gold target. On their way, the electrons interact with the gold nuclei, which serve as a catalyst to create positrons. The electrons give off packets of pure energy, which decays into matter and anti-matter, following the predictions by Einstein’s famous equation that relates matter and energy. By concentrating the energy in space and time, the laser produces positrons more rapidly and in greater density than ever before in the laboratory.

“By creating this much anti-matter, we can study in more detail whether anti-matter really is just like matter, and perhaps gain more clues as to why the universe we see has more matter than anti-matter,” said Peter Beiersdorfer, a lead Livermore physicist working with Chen.

Particles of anti-matter are almost immediately annihilated by contact with normal matter, and converted to pure energy (gamma rays). There is considerable speculation as to why the observable universe is apparently almost entirely matter, whether other places are almost entirely anti-matter, and what might be possible if anti-matter could be harnessed. Normal matter and anti-matter are thought to have been in balance in the very early universe, but due to an “asymmetry” the anti-matter decayed or was annihilated, and today very little anti-matter is seen.

Over the years, physicists have theorized about anti-matter, but it wasn’t confirmed to exist experimentally until 1932. High-energy cosmic rays impacting Earth’s atmosphere produce minute quantities of anti-matter in the resulting jets, and physicists have learned to produce modest amounts of anti-matter using traditional particle accelerators. Anti-matter similarly may be produced in regions like the center of the Milky Way and other galaxies, where very energetic celestial events occur. The presence of the resulting anti-matter is detectable by the gamma rays produced when positrons are destroyed when they come into contact with nearby matter.

Laser production of anti-matter isn’t entirely new either. Livermore researchers detected anti-matter about 10 years ago in experiments on the since-decommissioned Nova “petawatt” laser – about 100 particles. But with a better target and a more sensitive detector, this year’s experiments directly detected more than 1 million particles. From that sample, the scientists infer that around 100 billion positron particles were produced in total.

Until they annihilate, positrons (anti-electrons) behave much like electrons (just with an opposite charge), and that’s how Chen and her colleagues detected them. They took a normal electron detector (a spectrometer) and equipped it to detect particles with opposite polarity as well.

“We’ve entered a new era,” Beiersdorfer said. “Now, that we’ve looked for it, it’s almost like it hit us right on the head. We envision a center for antimatter research, using lasers as cheaper anti-matter factories.”

Chen will present her work at the American Physical Society's Division of Plasma Physics meeting Nov. 17-21 at the Hyatt Regency Reunion in Dallas. S.C. Wilks, E. Liang, J. Myatt, K. Cone ,L. Elberson, D.D. Meyerhofer, M. Schneider, R. Shepherd, D. Stafford, R. Tommasini, P. Beiersdorfer are the collaborators on this project.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "Billions Of Particles Of Anti-matter Created In Laboratory." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081117193019.htm>.
DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. (2008, November 18). Billions Of Particles Of Anti-matter Created In Laboratory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081117193019.htm
DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "Billions Of Particles Of Anti-matter Created In Laboratory." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081117193019.htm (accessed January 25, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Rosetta Captures Stunning Views, Diverse Data Of Comet 67P

Rosetta Captures Stunning Views, Diverse Data Of Comet 67P

Newsy (Jan. 23, 2015) The first images of the European Space Agency&apos;s Rosetta probe comet orbit could provide clues about its origin and how it got its unique shape. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Planets Could Be Lurking Far Beyond Neptune

New Planets Could Be Lurking Far Beyond Neptune

Newsy (Jan. 21, 2015) Scientists say planets located beyond Neptune could be altering the orbits of objects in the farthest reaches of our solar system. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
130,000 Pages Of UFO Investigation Docs Now Online

130,000 Pages Of UFO Investigation Docs Now Online

Newsy (Jan. 20, 2015) "UFO enthusiast" John Greenewald says he&apos;s spent 20 years collecting these docs, and believes there&apos;s a cover-up going on. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
US Navy Satellite Blasts Off

US Navy Satellite Blasts Off

Reuters - News Video Online (Jan. 20, 2015) A rocket carrying a new U.S. navy satellite that&apos;s designed to improve communications for forces on the move, successfully lifts off from Florida. Yiming Woo reports. Video provided by Reuters
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