Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

‘What If’ Conversation Sparks Tiny Atom Discovery

02.06.2009
“True muonium,” a long-theorized but never-seen tiny atom, might be observed in current and future super collider experiments, based on theoretical work published recently by researchers at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Arizona State University.

True muonium was first theorized more than 50 years ago, but until now no one had uncovered an unambiguous method by which it could be created and observed.

"We don't usually work in this area, but one day we were idly talking about how experimentalists could create exotic states of matter," says SLAC theorist Stanley Brodsky, who worked with Arizona State's Richard Lebed on the result. "As our conversation progressed, we realized 'Gee…we just figured out how to make true muonium.'"

True muonium is made of a muon and an anti-muon, and is distinguished from what's also been called "muonium" — an atom made of an electron and an anti-muon. Both muons and anti-muons are created frequently in nature when energetic particles from space — cosmic rays — strike the Earth's atmosphere. Yet both have a fleeting existence, and their combination, “true muonium,” decays naturally into other particles in a few trillionths of a second. This makes observation of the exotic atom quite difficult.

“The true muonium system is unique,” says Lebed, an associate professor in ASU’s Department of Physics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“It’s the smallest possible atom whose physics is determined by electricity and magnetism, The same forces that hold ordinary atoms together; but it’s 100 times smaller,” Lebed says. “I was astonished to discover not only that no one has ever produced true muonium atoms, but moreover that the methods we proposed just off-the-cuff turned out to be both novel and immediately doable.”

In a paper published May 26 in Physical Review Letters — “Production of the Smallest QED Atom: True Muonium (µ+µ-) — Brodsky and Lebed describe two methods by which electron-positron accelerators could detect the signature of true muonium's formation and decay.

In the first method, an accelerator's electron and positron beams are arranged to merge, crossing at a glancing angle. Such a collision would produce a single photon, which would then transform into a single true muonium atom that would be thrown clear of the other particle debris. Because the newly created true muonium atoms would be traveling so fast that the laws of relativity govern, they would decay much slower than they would otherwise, making detection easier.

In the second method, the electron and positron beams collide head-on, producing a true muonium atom and a photon, tangled up in a cloud of particle debris. Yet simply by recoiling against each other, the true muonium and the photon would push one another out of the debris cloud, creating a unique signature not previously searched for.

"It's very likely that people have already created true muonium in this second way," Brodsky says. "They just haven't detected it."

In their paper, Lebed and Brodsky also describe a possible but more difficult means by which experimentalists could create “true tauonium,” a bound state of a tau lepton and its antiparticle. The tau was first created at SLAC's SPEAR storage ring, a feat for which SLAC physicist Martin Perl received the 1995 Nobel Prize in physics.

“Once you make some of these atoms, you can study their detailed structure using incredibly fast laser pulses,” says Lebed. “It makes for a truly natural interdisciplinary project combining particle physics, atomic physics and cutting-edge optics.”

Brodsky attributes their finding to a confluence of events: various unrelated lectures, conversations and ideas over the years, pieces of which came together suddenly during his conversation with Lebed.

"Once you pull all of the ideas together, you say 'Of course! Why not?' That's the process of science — you try to relate everything new to what you already know, creating logical connections," Brodsky says.

Now that those logical connections are firmly in place, Brodsky says he hopes that one of the world's colliders will perform the experiments he and Lebed describe, asking, "Who doesn't want to see a new form of matter that no one's ever seen before?"

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.

SOURCES:
Richard Lebed, Richard.Lebed@asu.edu
Stanley Brodsky, sjbth@slac.standford.edu

Carol Hughes | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.asu.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration
18.10.2017 | NASA/Johnson Space Center

nachricht Study shows how water could have flowed on 'cold and icy' ancient Mars
18.10.2017 | Brown University

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Osaka university researchers make the slipperiest surfaces adhesive

18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Los Alamos researchers and supercomputers help interpret the latest LIGO findings

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>