Laser brings us one step closer to manipulating antimatter

CERN physicists have for the first time observed a benchmark transition of atomic energy in anti-hydrogen, which is an important step towards cooling and exploitation of the fundamental form of antimatter.

The next step is to use laser innovation to produce a cold and dense sample of anti-atoms. (Image credit: The University of British Columbia)

"The Lyman-alpha transition is the most fundamental, important transition in regular hydrogen atoms, and to capture the same phenomenon in anti-hydrogen opens a new era in antimatter science"Certified Takamasa Momose, the chemist and physicist from the University of British Columbia, who was in charge of manufacturing the laser system used to exploit the anti-hydrogen.

"This approach is a gateway to cooling anti-hydrogen, which will greatly improve the accuracy of our measurements and enable us to test how antimatter and gravity interact, which is still a mystery. "

The results of the study have been reported in Nature.

It is very difficult to capture and work with antimatter, which is destroyed by the impact on the matter. However, the study of antimatter is important for solving one of the greatest mysteries of the universe – why anti-matter that should have existed in equivalent quantities at the time of the Big Bang has completely disappeared?

"This brings us a little closer to answering some of these big questions in physics"Certified Makoto Fujiwara, Canadian spokesperson for CERN's ALPHA anti-hydrogen research collaboration, and also a physicist at TRIUMF, Canada's particle accelerator center."In recent decades scientists have been able to revolutionize atomic physics with the help of optical manipulation and laser cooling, and with this result we can begin to apply the same tools to investigate the mysteries of antimatter.. "

The anti-hydrogen atom contains a positron and an antiproton and is the antimatter counterpart of a hydrogen atom, made from one proton with a circulating electron.

The supposed Lyman alpha transition, initially observed in hydrogen more than a century ago, is quantified as a series of ultraviolet emissions when the electron of a hydrogen atom is moved from a low orbital to a high orbital. Using long-lasting laser pulses, Fujiwara, Momose, Canadian colleagues and the international ALPHA collaboration at CERN successfully worked on the same energy transition in many anti-hydrogen atoms that were magnetically fixed in a vacuum.

In addition to the extreme challenge of capturing hundreds of hundreds of anti-hydrogen atoms for a long time to work with, it took years to adjust the components of the laser system.

You can not really see the laser pulses you use to excite the anti-hydrogen and shift the orbitals. So our team was basically working and solving problems with the laser system in the blind!

Takamasa Momose

The next step of the team is to use the laser innovation to make a cold and thick sample of anti-atoms for gravity measurements and precision spectroscopy.

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