Monday, June 06, 2011

Antimatter trapped for a record 16 minutes!

Articles about anti-matter are nothing new here I know, but the research is getting so advanced that it certainly has a wow factor built in now. Anti-matter.... a few billionths of a second after the big bang, theory has it that there was an equal amount of matter and anti-matter. Since matter and anti-matter can not exist in proximity, matter and anti-matter annihilated one another. Now the astute among us is asking uhh if that is so, how come I see a universe full of matter. Well it seems that the matter/antimatter conversion is not 100% efficient and all the mass we see now is a fraction less than 1% of what there was before the conversion. Wild huh? Physics says that there should be way more mass in the universe, now we think we know where it went..

Anyway, that just shows how unbelievably difficult it is to store antimatter. And to consider large amounts for a long time is surely something of science fiction. Not so says an article in Yahoo News sent in by Tim Sayell.

Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva say that they have been successful at trapping anti-hydrogen atoms for the unheard of time of 1000 seconds. Yes in the normal world that's a stunning 16 minutes and change! What is a bit weird is Cern scientists are not really "trapping" anti-hydrogen as "cooking" it. From the article:
  • In the ALPHA project, the researchers captured anti-hydrogen by mixing anti-protons with positrons — anti-electrons — in a vacuum chamber, where they combine into anti-hydrogen atoms.
  • The whole process occurred within a magnetic "bottle"
To detect what they have trapped, the scientists turn off the magnetic fields allowing the anti-hydrogen to interact with normal matter.

Cern scientists are not sitting on their laurels however. The problem with the present trap is that there is no way to interact with the anti-matter directly. They are hoping that by 2012 they will have a new trap built that will allow scientists to study the anti-matter directly with lasers to allow spectroscopic experiments on the anti-atoms.

read complete Yahoo article here

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