Posted by: Aba Cohen | November 18, 2010

CERN – antihydrogen factory


Nature online announced this Wednesday, November 17 – 2010, that the ALPHA Group at CERN produced and trapped 38 hydrogen antiatoms (or antihydrogen) within a magnetic bottle, keeping them for about 0.2 seconds.

According to the Standard Model, the antihydrogen atom is, in principle similar to its material counterpart, hydrogen, with the same spectral emission. The only difference is the constituents: a negative nucleus (one antiproton) surrounded by a positive cloud (antielectron or positron). The short life time for antimatter is due to its annihilation when in contact with matter, that transforms both into gamma radiation.

To confirm that antihydrogen has the same spectral characteristics as those of hydrogen, the ALPHA Group will try to confine about 100 antihydrogen atoms in order to excite them to produce light emission like those produced by hydrogen. The generation of a single antihydrogen atom is not so new as ALPHA Group as well as its (also CERN´s) competitor Group ATRAP produced in the last years thousands of antihydrogen single atoms.

To keep the antiatoms confined, ALPHA produced a non-uniform magnetic field, stronger close to the material walls, with a minimum strength in the central volume. As each antihydrogen atom has a non-zero spin, it is possible to drive and keep them confined, under ultra high vacuum, within that magnetic pond.


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