Scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, have used laser on trapped anti-atoms to see how the behavior of antimatter differs from that of regular matter.
What Is Antimatter?
Antimatter is the opposite of normal matter having sub-atomic particles that have properties opposite those of normal matter. The nucleus of an atom, the fundamental piece of matter, consists of the positively charged proton and the neutrally charged neutron. The negatively charged electron orbits the nucleus.
The electrical charge of antimatter particles known as antiparticles is reversed relative to matter. The anti-electrons, known as positrons, are positively charged while the antiprotons have negative charge.
The Big Bang produced matter and antimatter in equal amounts but the universe is now consists mostly of matter and scientists do not know why.
Challenges In Studying Antimatter
Antimatter is difficult to produce and study because when it comes in contact with ordinary matter, both get destroyed in a flash of light.
Researchers who work on CERN's ALPHA experiment, however, were able to make the antimatter version of simple hydrogen atoms. Scientists trapped and hold these anti-atoms in a vacuum with strong magnetic field to keep them from getting annihilated.
Light Spectrums Of Matter And Antimatter
Now, scientists have come up with a way to study the properties of anti-hydrogen. Using a special laser, they were able to compare the light spectrum of matter and antimatter.
The researchers blasted antimatter atoms with laser and then measured the light let off by the anti-atoms. They found no difference between the spectral lines of hydrogen and antihydrogen, which is consistent with the Standard Model of particle physics that predicts hydrogen and antihydrogen should have the same spectroscopic characteristics.
The researchers hope that by comparing light from anti-atoms with that of regular atoms, they may eventually find out why antimatter became rare in the universe. It could also shed light on why in the early universe, there should have been equal amounts of matter and antimatter but the two were not completely destroyed by each other.
"Something happened, some small asymmetry that led some of the matter to survive," said ALPHA collaboration spokesperson Jeffrey Hangst, "And we simply have no good idea that explains that right now."
Researchers said this is the reason why they want to know if matter and antimatter truly obey the same laws of physics.
"Using a laser to observe a transition in antihydrogen and comparing it to hydrogen to see if they obey the same laws of physics has always been a key goal of antimatter research," said Hangst.