Physicists Measure Force For First Time That Holds Antimatter Together

Posted: Nov 4 2015, 9:11pm CST | by , Updated: Nov 4 2015, 9:46pm CST, in News | Latest Science News


Physicists Measure Force for First Time that Holds Antimatter Together
Credit: BNL/STAR Collaboration

The attractive force between two antiprotons is strong, just like ordinary protons in matter, study finds.

Antimatter is composed of antiparticles and is the shadow of normal matter. And as we know everything in the world is made of matter.

For the first time, scientists have examined antiparticles and measured the force that makes antimatter stick together. 

Both matter and antimatter were created at the time of the Big Bang, the formation of universe. Antiparticles have the same mass as the regular particles but their charges are opposite to normal matter. Surprisingly, the universe today is entirely made of matter with virtually no antimatter found. This is the mystery scientists were exactly trying to unlock.

"The Big Bang-the beginning of the universe-produced matter and antimatter in equal amounts. But that's not the world we see today. Antimatter is extremely rare. It's a huge mystery,” said Aihong Tang, a Brookhaven physicist involved in the analysis, which used data collected by RHIC's STAR detector. "Although this puzzle has been known for decades and little clues have emerged, it remains one of the big challenges of science. Anything we learn about the nature of antimatter can potentially contribute to solving this puzzle."

To solve the puzzle, researchers recreated the conditions of early universe and made small amounts of antimatter at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility for nuclear physics research at DOE's Brookhaven National Laboratory. Collider RHIC smashed together atoms of pure gold and the collision created hundreds of millions of antiparticles. 

"RHIC is ideal for this kind of experiment because it allows us to dump a boatload of energy into a very small volume and have many particles come out of it," said Rice physicist Frank Geurts. "The multiplicity is important. If you don't make a lot of particles, the odds of having them interact with each other is slim."

The important parameter to measure was the attraction force between antiprotons which is found at the center of atoms and is fundamental to understand the structure of more complex antinuclei and their properties. It is a negatively charged version of positively charged proton found in matter.

The scientists found that the force between antiproton is attractive and strong, just like the nuclear force that holds ordinary atoms together. In fact, no difference has been observed between matter and antimatter in the way the strong force behaves.

Tang concludes. "Our experiment confirmed that they indeed behaved just like ordinary matter.”

The study was published in Nature.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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