Researchers from the CERN-based Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus (ALPHA) collaboration have announced that a war to manipulate antimatter with a laser.
Antimatter is the counterpart of matter, with similar properties but an opposite charge. This means the two annihilate when they come together, making it exceedingly difficult to study in our matter-ridden world.
“Today’s results are the culmination of a years-long program of research and engineering, conducted at University of British Columbia (UBC) but supported by partners from across the country,” says Takamasa Momos of UBC, who led the development of the laser.
“With this technique, we can address long-standing mysteries like: How does antimatter respond to gravity? Can antimatter help us understand symmetries in physics? These answers may fundamentally alter our understanding of our Universe.”
Key research points
- New technique manipulates antimatter with laser
- Antimatter is cooled to near absolute zero
- Cooled antimatter can be experimented upon
Cooling antimatter to near zero could allow researchers to shine light on fundamental aspects of the origins of the universe.
“It was a bit of crazy dream to manipulate antimatter with laser,” says Makoto Fujiwara, ALPHA-Canada spokesperson.
“I am thrilled that our dream has finally come true as a result of tremendous teamwork of both Canadian and international scientists.”
“My next dream is to make a ‘fountain’ of anti-atoms by tossing the laser-cooled antimatter into free space. If realized, it would enable an entirely new class of quantum measurements that were previously unthinkable.
“Furthermore, we are one step closer to being able to manufacture the world’s first antimatter molecules by joining anti-atoms together using our laser manipulation technology,” said Momose.
Their results were published in Nature.
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Deborah Devis is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Science (Honours) in biology and philosophy from the University of Sydney, and a PhD in plant molecular genetics from the University of Adelaide.
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