Creating Antimatter is Now Easier Than Ever
Estimated reading time: 8 minute(s)
Creating antimatter in a lab has previously been close to impossible, requiring huge machines like the LHC (Large Hadron Collider), but now a team of scientists have managed to create an equal amount but with a device small enough to fit on your desk.
The antimatter particles created are called positrons, the positive version of an electron, and the same thing that power LT Cmdr Datas brain in Star Trek.
To achieve this, the team fired a petawatt (1000000000000000 watts) laser at a sample of inert helium gas. Doing so caused the creation of a stream of electrons moving at very high speed. Those electrons were directed at a very thin sheet of metal foil which caused them to smash into individual metal atoms. Those collisions resulted in a stream of electron and positron emissions—the two were then separated using magnets.
The generation of ultrarelativistic positron beams with short duration (τe+≃30 fs), small divergence (θe+≃3 mrad), and high density (ne+≃1014–1015 cm-3) from a fully optical setup is reported. The detected positron beam propagates with a high-density electron beam and γ rays of similar spectral shape and peak energy, thus closely resembling the structure of an astrophysical leptonic jet. It is envisaged that this experimental evidence, besides the intrinsic relevance to laser-driven particle acceleration, may open the pathway for the small-scale study of astrophysical leptonic jets in the laboratory.
Its hardly enough to use for anything else but studying it, but even that is a huge step towards understanding antimatter!
Black holes and pulsars emit dense jets of particles that are made of electrons and positrons (the antiparticle of the electron). But many important and basic features of the jets remain unclear: What is their precise particle makeup? How much energy do they contain? How do the particles in the jets interact in the low-density environment of outerspace? The main difficulty in answering these questions is that astronomical systems can only be measured indirectly: the closest jet is almost 1024 miles away. As Gianluca Sarri from The Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and colleagues report in Physical Review Letters, a new tabletop method for generating electron-positron streams could bring measurements closer to home by enabling the scaled-down reproduction of matter-antimatter flows in the lab.