New tech that cools down antimatter to help unlock secrets

Last Updated 07 January 2013, 16:54 IST

Scientists have devised a new method of cooling down antimatter that will make it easier to experiment on, and also map its mysterious properties that yet remain elusive.

The new method for cooling trapped antihydrogen could provide “a major experimental advantage”, researchers from the US and Canada believe. The technique could potentially cool trapped antihydrogen atoms to temperatures 25 times colder than already achieved, making them more stable and a lot easier to experiment on.

The suggested method involves a laser which is directed at antihydrogen atoms to give them a “kick”, causing them to lose energy and cool down.

Antihydrogen atoms are formed in an ultra-high vacuum trap by injecting antiprotons into positron plasma. An atomic process causes the antiproton to capture a positron which gives an electronically excited antihydrogen atom.

As it is only possible to trap very few antihydrogen atoms, the main method for reducing the high energies is to laser cool the atoms to extremely low temperatures. “By reducing the antihydrogen energy, it should be possible to perform more precise measurements of all of its parameters.

Our proposed method could reduce the average energy of trapped antihydrogen by a factor of more than 10,” co-author of the study, Professor Francis Robicheaux of Auburn University in the US, said.

“The ultimate goal of antihydrogen experiments is to compare its properties to those of hydrogen. Colder antihydrogen will be an important step for achieving this,” Robicheaux said in a statement.

This process, known as Doppler cooling, is an established method for cooling atoms; however, because of the restricted parameters that are needed to trap antimatter, the researchers need to be absolutely sure that it is possible.

(Published 07 January 2013, 16:54 IST)

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