A team of researchers led by Jeffrey Hangst has succeeded in producing and trapping antihydrogen atoms 38 using the ALPHA experiment at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, published today by the journal Nature. This will allow to respond to a major open questions about the Universe: What are the differences between matter and antimatter?
While a hydrogen atom is composed of one proton and one electron, antihydrogen atom consists of an antiproton and a positron. Antihydrogen was produced at low energies at CERN since 2002, but because when matter and antimatter meet will "annihilate" each other, hitherto not been possible to confine these atoms, which prevented detailed study. Among the technical innovations that have enabled trap antimatter for the first time it includes a new magnetic 'trap' bordering the antihydrogen and prevents it from coming into contact with matter.
Antimatter - or rather the lack of this - remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of science. It is believed that during the Big Bang, matter and antimatter were formed in equal amounts. So, why the world we know is made of matter while antimatter seems to have disappeared? "By analyzing the differences between the properties of both scientists hope to find an explanation," they say from CERN.
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