'Cool' new Canadian-built laser will help scientists probe antimatter mysteries
The device will help scientists get much more precise measurements of antimatter by slowing it down
A pulsing laser that nudges atoms of antimatter with photons to it slow down will allow scientists to make high-precision measurements like never before.
Antimatter is a weird doppleganger of matter, similar in many ways to ordinary matter, but when it comes in contact when normal matter it annihilates and both matter an antimatter are immediately converted to energy.
At the Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus (ALPHA) at CERN in Switzerland, scientists create antihydrogen atoms, but becuase of the problem of annihilation, it's very difficult to create and study.
The new laser device works to slow the antimatter by cooling it down. It was developed at the University of British Columbia by a member of ALPHA's Canadian team (ALPHA-Canada) and described in a new study published in the journal Nature.
After the antimatter is created in a vacuum and trapped magnetically, the laser essentially freezes it in place.
So far, the ALPHA-Canada spokesperson, Makoto Fujiwara — senior research scientist at Canada's particle accelerator centre, TRIUMF, said they haven't encountered any limit for how long they can hold the antimatter.
Fujiwara told Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald how this technological advancement opens a world of opportunities to get precise measurements of antimatter's gravity and the the colour it absorbs and emits.
Data like this could help bring new insights to some of the deepest mysteries about our universe, like quantum mechanics and special relativity, as well as figuring out what happened to the antimatter that was created after the Big Bang.
Produced and written by Sonya Buyting