December 4, 2021

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Antimatter has a big secret, and this is how CERN scientists are trying to unravel it

Antimatter has a big secret, and this is how CERN scientists are trying to unravel it

One of the reasons antimatter is so interesting not only to particle physicists, but also to people passionate about science, is that the tools we have so far do not allow us to understand What role did he play? employment The origin of the universe. However, the puzzle does not end here. Nor do we know what laws govern the fine line that defines the imbalance between matter and antimatter that we will look at in the final section of this article.

Before we proceed, it is worth taking a moment to review briefly What is antimatter? And what makes it so weird. In fact, it is nothing more than a form of matter made up of antiparticles, particles of the same mass and spin as the particles we know, but with an opposite electric charge. In this way, the antiparticle of the electron is the positron or the antielectron. The antiproton is the antiproton.

Antimatter has an amazing property: when it comes into direct contact with matter Both are annihilated, releases a large amount of energy in the form of high-energy photons, as well as other possible pairs of particles and antiparticles. It is currently being studied in many of the world’s leading particle physics research centers in the hope that knowing it will help us better understand some of the still-elusive mysteries of the universe.

CERN has the tools to create and process antimatter

Its peculiar nature hasn’t stopped scientists from finding a way to get it in the lab to study it and learn more about its properties. CERN, which is currently the most advanced particle physics laboratory on the planet, has several experiments explicitly designed to investigate the deepest mysteries of antimatter by resorting to highly active interactions between particles.

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Two of the results that have already given us some encouraging results, and are still very promising, are ALPHA-g and GBAR. In general, at first, scientists cause two beams of particles to collide with a high level of energy to obtain an antihydrogen atom made up of an antiproton and a positron, in the same way as protium, which is an isotope of hydrogen. Abundant in nature, it is composed of a proton and an electron.

One of the biggest challenges involved in manipulating antimatter is, as we’ve seen, that when it comes into contact with matter, they both annihilate each other and release a lot of energy. This is why researchers have to develop strategies for Keeping antimatter completely isolated Obtained in the laboratory for as long as possible. The most effective trick is to confine it to a vacuum chamber to prevent it from coming into contact with the substance, and fortunately, they were actually able to keep it in this state for several minutes.

The CERN ALPHA-g and GBAR experiments seek to better understand the interaction between antimatter and gravity

alpha-z (Hydrogen laser physics device – gravityStudy something interesting such as the interaction that takes place Between antimatter and gravity Because it is not clear that they have the same properties that determine the interaction between gravity and ordinary matter. On the other hand, GBA (Gravitational behavior of antimatter at rest) produces anti-ions, cools them until they reach a temperature close to absolute zero, which is -273.15 degrees Celsius, and then steals a positron from them to turn it into a non-ionic anti-atom.

the purpose From these two experiences is to study the interaction of antimatter and gravity as closely as possible, so scientists believe that approaching this task using two different perspectives could help them better understand this fundamental force, and possibly develop Quantum theory of gravity.

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However, CERN’s efforts do not end here. At the end of last year, researchers conducted an experiment stationed (Antibaryon symmetry experimentAn amazing device designed for Anti-transfer particles. It looks complicated, and it also sounds dangerous, but it is a very interesting idea because it will allow the antimatter obtained at CERN to be transported to other facilities where it can be studied.

This initiative is still under development, but if all goes as the scientists planned, it will facilitate collaboration between different institutions that have a common goal: better understanding. properties of antimatter. We talk in more depth about this strange “bag” of antimatter in The article I linked here.

The experience will

In this image we can see at work one of the CERN technicians involved in fine-tuning the advanced equipment used in the BASE (Baryon Antibaryon Symmetry Experiment).

The great mystery facing scientists: the asymmetry of matter and antimatter

Finally, we come to the great mystery of antimatter, one that many people reading this article have probably heard about: Inconsistency between matter and antimatter.

Astrophysicists work on the Big Bang model This inconsistency is expected, which is nothing more than a spacing, perhaps small if we stick to the cosmological scale, in the elementary quantities of antimatter and matter. The latter is supposed to be more abundant because, other than that, what we know is what we know we wouldn’t be around because matter would have ended up coming into contact with primordial antimatter created during the Big Bang.

The great challenge for physicists is that the Standard Model fails to explain this variance, which, on the other hand, has been partially verified in the laboratory by determining CP . symmetry violation (If you want to know more about these experiences, I suggest you take a look at this maven but it is still valuable Article by Francisco R. Filatoro).

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Fortunately, the effort physicists have made in recent years is paying off in the form of promising hypotheses, to say the least. One of the most interesting things is to discover a hostel with a special ability for it Change status automatically, changing its structure between matter and antimatter.

The oscillation of ‘witch’ mesons may be the key to explaining the asymmetry of matter and antimatter in the universe that made our existence possible.

Mesons are subatomic particles belonging to the family of hadrons that consist of the same number of quarks and antiquarks, which are held together thanks to the mediation of the strong nuclear force. The state change that scientists observed in the LHCb experiment in mesons Charm (magic) may be a key Understanding the mechanism Which explains the asymmetry of matter and antimatter in the universe. We explain everything in more detail In the article I linked hereIf you wish to conduct further investigations.

There is no doubt that we are living an exciting time for all of us who are interested in particle physics and cosmology. We can make sure of that for years to come More amazing discoveries to come This will allow us to know a little better, not only about our origin, but also what place we occupy in the universe.

Pictures | CERN