Antimatter atoms annihilate whenever they come in contact with matter – it creates everything. This makes them difficult to study, which is a problem, scientists say, because studying the antimatter is important for understanding how the universe came to be.
So the question is, how can you properly study and measure antimatter atoms and handle them?
The team of scientists says they found a way to do that by slowing down the antimatter atoms with explosives from a special Canadian-built laser. They claim that it makes it possible to create antimatter molecules – large particles similar to what we encounter in the real world – in the laboratory.
BC, Makoto Fujiwara, research scientist at TRIUMF, Canada’s Particle Accelerator Center in Vancouver, said, “It gives us so much excitement.” “You can start doing things you never imagined before,”
Fujiwara is a member of an international scientific collaboration called Alpha, which has developed the Canadian-structured laser, which scientists say could handle, study and measure the antimatter as before. The new technique will enable us to study its properties and behavior in more detail, compare it with matter, and answer some of the most fundamental questions in physics about the origin of the universe.
The collaboration, based on CERN’s underground laboratory, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, has released new research. In the Wednesday issue of Nature.
The team includes scientists from around the world, including Canadian researchers from TRIUMF, British Columbia University (UPC), Simon Fraser University, Victoria University, British Columbia Institute of Technology, University of Calgary and York University in Toronto. From government agencies, including the European Research Council and the National Research Council of Canada, a few foundations and foundations.
What is an antimatter?
According to our understanding of physics, for every particle that exists, there is a particle of antimatter with the same mass, but the opposite charge. For example, the “antibody” of an electron – an antelectron commonly referred to as a positron – has a positive charge.
When energy is converted into mass it is produced in equal proportions with the antimatter substance. This occurs in particle collisions, such as a large Hadron collision at CERN. This is believed to have happened during the Big Bang at the beginning of the universe.
But there is no significant amount of antimatter in the universe – a big puzzle for scientists.
Scientists want to study antimatter and find out how it differs from matter because it will provide clues as to why the universe’s antimatter has disappeared. But there is a problem – when the antimatter and the subject meet each other, they are both annihilated and produce pure energy. (A large sum – this is what drives the imaginary warp drive on Star Trek).
Since our world is made of material, working with antimatter is tricky. In the long run, scientists could create antimatter atoms in the laboratory, but they would last millions of seconds before they hit the walls of the material in their container and were destroyed.
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Then in 2010, alpha collaboration paved the way Hold the antimatter atoms Using a very powerful magnetic field created by a superconducting magnet. That magnetic field may be away from the sides of their container, which is made of material, up to half an hour – giving scientists a lot of time. Hydrogen resistance measurements compared to hydrogen.
Makoto Fujiwara’s ‘crazy dream’
There was a problem though. The pictures you take with your camera are blurry and if the object you are photographing moves too fast, it can be difficult to get accurate measurements without being able to reduce the speed of the hydrogen resistant atoms. But Fujiwara had an idea of how to do it.
“It was one of those crazy dreams I had a long time ago – that is, to manipulate and control the movement of antimatter atoms by laser light,” he recalled.
He knew that conventional atoms could be reduced by “laser cooling” (atoms move slowly at cold temperatures and stop moving at 0 Kelvin or 0 K, which is equivalent to -273.15 C, called absolute zero). The atoms of each element are sensitive to specific colors of light. Attacking them with those particular colors under certain conditions will cause them to absorb light and move slowly in the process.
In theory, anti-hydrogen atoms should respond to the same colors as conventional hydrogen atoms (In 2018 the researchers confirmed.)
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So, once the alpha succeeded in capturing the antimatter atoms of hydrogen, Fujiwara tried to try laser cooling on them.
His colleagues laughed, initially recalling, “Everyone knows it’s very difficult to build a laser for this.”
The color they require is, in physics, indicated by its wavelength (for example, red has a wavelength of about 700 nanometers and blue has a wavelength of 450 nanometers) must be very accurate. This required a wavelength of exactly 121.6 nanometers. The laser of that color had never been built before. The laser must be mounted on the most complex test system in the most complex location.
Then, one day, Fujiwara ran into a restaurant at TRIUMF in Vancouver with his colleague Takamasa Momos, a professor of UBC chemistry. He noted the problem, and Momos said the laser could be developed.
The two worked together, and almost 10 years later, they were successful.
What can you do with ultra slow antimatter atoms
Antihydrogen atoms are formed and trapped at very cold temperatures, about 0.5 Kelvin or K (-272.65 C). But even at that temperature, they move at a speed of 300 kilometers per hour. With laser cooling, the researcher was able to kill them at 0.01 K (-273.14) and at a speed of 36 kilometers per hour.
“Almost you can catch it by running,” Fujiwara said (i.e., if you’re Usain Bolt, who 37.58 kilometers per hour (100 km / h).
The team was able to measure the colors that represent the “fingerprint” of the cooled antihydrogen atoms. At that slow speed, the measurement was four times sharper than the dim measurements they took at faster speeds and higher temperatures.
When the atoms move slowly, they allow them to move closer to each other – and could even combine to form larger particles of antimatter, Momos said, adding that this was his next goal.
“So far we only have antihydrogen atoms,” he said. “But I think it’s better to make a molecule with an antimatter.”
Fujiwara wants to measure the force of gravity on the antimatter atoms to see if it is equal to the force of gravity on the object. Gravity is very weak with a small mass like an atom, and its signal is usually drowned out by the signals of other atomic motions. But as the atoms stop moving at absolute zero, those other motions can be greatly reduced with intense cooling.
Why this is a ‘good step’
Randolph Paul is a professor of experimental nuclear physics at the University of Mainz in Germany, who has not been involved in research, but has worked with antimatter in the past. He has been following in the footsteps of Alpha, and said its latest results are “a good step” towards accurate measurements of the “fingerprint” of antihydrogen.
But he thinks the new technique will have an even bigger impact on the gravitational acceleration measurements of antimatter atoms: “The big question is: will the antimatter fall to the ground – will it be attracted to the object? Or will it be repelled by the object or fall? Upwards?”
He said so far, no one expected a distinction between substance and antimatter in its behavior, but that theory has yet to be tested.
“Because in the past people measured something they didn’t expect to see a contradiction, and then suddenly a contradiction appeared,” he said. “It changed our view of the world.”