New technique for antihydrogen synthesis promises answers to mysteries of antimatter

December 6, 2010
Conceptual experimental setup for ground-state hyperfine transition measurements of antihydrogen atoms with the cusp trap.

( -- Researchers at RIKEN, Japan's flagship research institution, have successfully devised the world’s first experimental technique for measuring ground-state hyperfine transitions of antihydrogen. By enabling scientists to test fundamental theories of symmetry and gravity, the new technique promises to shed light on some of the most profound mysteries of our universe.

One of the most puzzling findings to emerge from modern physics, the existence of is at the heart of some of the most challenging unsolved problems in science. Why is it that the universe today is made up almost exclusively of matter, and not antimatter? The standard model of particle physics, currently our best theory on the subatomic world, fails to provide an answer to this question.

Instead, scientists believe the answer may lie in tiny differences between the properties of matter and antimatter, manifested in violations of a principle known as CPT (charge, parity, time) symmetry. Antihydrogen, made up of an antiproton and a positron, is attractive for testing CPT symmetry given its simple structure. First produced in large quantities at CERN in 2002, antihydrogen was recently trapped for the first time in a widely-reported study by the international ALPHA collaboration, published last month in Nature.

(a) Stack of multiple ring electrodes of the cusp trap. (b) The electrical potential along the beam axis. The potential Φ1 for injection of positrons, Φ2 for accumulation and compression of positrons. and Φ3 for mixing of antiprotons and positrons. (The mixing region in the upstream part is called the nested trap, and the harmonic part in the downstream is called the field-ionization trap (FIT)). Φ4 for antiproton injection from the upstream side. Φ5 for extraction of antiprotons accumulated in the FIT originating from the field-ionized antihydrogen atoms. (c) The magnetic field B(T) along the beam axis.

The new experimental technique, also developed at CERN in a project called ASACUSA, adopts a novel approach for testing CPT in antihydrogen. Whereas ALPHA focused on high-precision laser spectroscopy measurement of 1S-2S electron transitions, ASACUSA uses high-precision microwave spectroscopy to study much smaller hyperfine transitions. The latter approach does not require that atoms be trapped for their properties to be measured, thus making it possible to study an actual beam of antihydrogen.

The new experimental setup, which produces antihydrogen by colliding positrons and antiprotons in a novel “cusp” trap, is an essential precursor to creating such a beam. Initial findings reported in the journal Physical Review Letters indicate that more than 7% of all antiprotons injected into the trap successfully combine to form antihydrogen, suggesting that tests of CPT symmetry are not far away. Together with the studies on trapped antihydrogen, new experiments promise groundbreaking insights into the nature of antimatter, revolutionizing our understanding of matter and the universe.

Explore further: Antihydrogen trapped for first time (w/ Video)

More information: Y. Enomoto, N. Kuroda, K. Michishio, C.H. Kim, H. Higaki, Y. Nagata, Y. Kanai, H.A. Torii, M. Corradini, M. Leali, E. Lodi-Rizzini, V. Mascagna, L. Venturelli, N. Zurlo, K. Fujii, M. Ohtsuka, K. Tanaka, H. Imao, Y. Nagashima, Y. Matsuda, B. Juhasz, A. Mohri, and Y. Yamazaki. Synthesis of Cold Antihydrogen in a Cusp Trap. Physical Review Letters (2010).

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not rated yet Dec 06, 2010
really cool!
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
There is no need any matter-antimatter asymmetry to understand that one of them statistically dominated - completely enough is to accept that presence of particle has NONZERO INFLUENCE of what's happening around (additional edges in Feynman diagrams) - so e.g. near electron, barygenesis doesn't create exactly 10^100 protons per 10^100 anti-protons, but there is a slight statistical shift (and opposite near positron) - because of equilibrating annihilation, a smallest effect of this kind would make symmetric matter-antimatter balance unstable and lead to domination of randomly chosen one of them.

It's like why why our life use practically only L-aminoacids against symmetry?
It's because the more L-life there was, the more material for L-life there was available ... and so it produced more and more L-aminoacids shifting the balance ... the symmetric situation with the same amount of L and R life is statistically unstable and so one of them just had to practically completely dominate.
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
Communism - Kapitalism pair also "statistically unstable" ?
Where you found this strange theory of "L-R-shifting" ???... !!!
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
There is no need any matter-antimatter asymmetry to understand ...

It's like why why our life use practically only L-aminoacids against symmetry?
It's because the more L-life there was, the more material for L-life there was available ... and so it produced more and more L-aminoacids shifting the balance ... the symmetric situation with the same amount of L and R life is statistically unstable and so one of them just had to practically completely dominate.

In other words: natural selection
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
No, natural selection is also statistical, but generally completely different mechanism ...
I'm saying about that stationary states are often unstable - there is needed some (even extremely weak) repelling mechanism, like that presence of matter (or L-life) would make that while baryogenesis it's a bit easier to create more matter than antimatter nearby ... and by symmetry presence of anti-matter would make creating anti-matter slightly more probable.
In such case, if there randomly gathered more matter somewhere, baryogenesis would take local balance (equilibrated through annihilation) further towards matter ... leading to its complete domination.
5 / 5 (1) Dec 07, 2010
The mechanism of natural selection for genetics (and biology and sociology) is different, but your statement follows directly from the laws of natural selection:

Something in higher quantity (matter) which is capable of self-propagation (baryogenesis, enhanced by more matter) and resides in a specific location (Universe) will eventually either dominate or be in equilibrium with something in lesser quantity (anti-matter) also capable of self-propagation and residing in the same location.

Since equilibrium causes annihilation, this leads to eventual complete domination of the one with the highest quantity.

In practice this is a restatement of natural selection with a condition twist (annihilation) applied to the creation of matter.
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
Ok, let's discuss the nomenclature :)
Direct analogy to biology would be two 'symmetric' species which cannot change, they fight to dominate some resources and their strength grow with their number, so finally the symmetry will be broken and randomly chosen one of them will dominate - I would say it's extremely simple ecology/game theory model.
Natural SELECTION is much more complicated - it just require some changeableness according to which fitness the selection will be made.
Ok, if we think about e.g. choosing between L and R aminoacids as one of 'genes' of our specimen, we could call the proportion between them as its fitness ... but it's a bit far-fetched.
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
The two symmetrical species can 'evolve': nuclear fusion, radiation, redox, etc. In fact, there are very few concepts in nature I can think of that don't tend to change over time due to the nature of nature itself.

It only feels strange to look at it this way because it is the norm to look at natural selection from an archaic 'survival of the fittest' viewpoint from biology and its subfields, which is, granted, because the idea came from a biologist and usually gets taught by mathematically illiterate biologists :P

Evolution and natural selection defined more broadly are 'small changes over small periods of time lead to big changes over big periods of time' and 'changes that enhance survival(existence) are selected for', respectively.
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
It is simply a misconception that the laws of natural selection apply solely to biological lifeforms and their processes. Ultimately all biological processes are dictated by the laws of physics, under a specific form of chemistry. The occurrence of random methylation of DNA causing epigenetic changes affecting survival rate of not only cells themselves but of that of the entire organism, alone already accounts for that.

My point is natural selection not only takes place on a genetic level, but seemingly on all levels: from the formation of atoms, molecules, planets, stars, galaxies, to possibly even universes within a much larger multiverse.

The selection criteria and mechanics all differ per level, but ultimately they are all selected for by the same thing: nature, hence 'natural selection'.
not rated yet Dec 08, 2010
Ok, I have to admit that in my mind, natural selection is strongly connected with 'survival of the fittest' and gene-connected view on evolution. If we remove this deeply rooted in our society meaning of these two words, probably we could call this way almost all e.g. unstable stationary states in thermodynamics ...
From the other hand, as a mathematician at heart, I have a deep need to clearly define/describe the essence of mechanisms - and so do it in the simplest possible way - I see connection, I could assign it to natural selection if I would feel some profits of that ... but I would feel misleading to just describe it like that - the essence of the mechanism (we got far from away:) ) is natural in all dynamics: unstable/repelling stationary state and so I prefer to call it like that and connect with e.g. putting a pen vertically on its tip...
not rated yet Dec 08, 2010
As a physicist and physician in spe I can't wait until the day the mainly qualitative boundaries of biology get properly mathematicized in more physicochemical terms as they should be so we can finally get rid of these completely arbitrary non-sensical understanding gaps between the main natural sciences.

But I digress, we have indeed strayed afar from fundamental physics.
not rated yet Dec 09, 2010
It's because the more L-life there was, the more material for L-life there was available ... and so it produced more and more L-aminoacids shifting the balance ...

I can understand you, but in my theory the distribution of R-sugars and L-aminoacids is not accidental at all and it would reappear again, if organic life would evolve again from scratch. It's hardwired into geometry of observable Universe.

The trick is, the the life was formed in so-called liposomes, formed by fragmentation of tiny oily droplets at the stormy surface of ancient oceans. Every liposome is very small (i.e. of high surface curvature) and it has a double surface, formed by hydrophobic membranes. In such system, the surface tension phenomena cannot be neglected, because the highly concave surface exhibits so-called superhydrophobicity, so it repels the carbohydrate molecules with many -OH functional groups, which are collected preferably inside of liposome.
not rated yet Dec 09, 2010
In this way, chiral organic molecules would obtain their distribution inside/outside of vesicles from the very beginning of liposome formation, i.e. it's not accidental event - but quite reversible process, which should be replicated experimentally in liposome dispersions under laboratory conditions.
not rated yet Dec 12, 2010
Dirac depicted matter as particles with sufficient energy to free them from the vacume lattice, leaving behind an antimatter "hole" in the vacume, not unlike the creation of free electrons and corresponding holes in a copper wire by applying an electric field. Most interesting is that in a copperwire or a semiconductor, free electrons and free holes, while moving in opposite direction relative to the applied electrical field, do not necessarely have to do so at the same speed, one could imagine a hole meeting less resistance/intertia from the copper than the free electrons getting resisted by other bound valence electrons as well. Extrapolating: if anti-particles are less coupled by inertia to the resistance of the vacume medium, than in a violent event like the Big Bang, particles and antiparticles travelling at different speeds would setup an effective mechanism for particle to spatially seperate from anti-particles before mutual annihilation restores both to the vacume medium
not rated yet Dec 12, 2010
I predict that if one runs matter and anti-matter ions at relativistic speeds through an accellerator (thus inducing an increase of relativistic mass by inertial drag) the initial tiny difference would manifest itselve in a noticable speed difference, also, already observed CP-violation as different decay times in matter vs antimatter could be seen as antimatter feeling less restricted by the surrounding medium
not rated yet Dec 12, 2010
Asymetric jet quenching as seen in the quark-gluon plasma at the LHC could perhaps also be studied from the perspective that while the self-induced electric field of the plasma would dictate two jets moving in opposite direction untder influence of the electric field, one jet would contain more holes, altering the viscosity dynamics of the jet , in turn further disturb the electrical field

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