Physicists at the University of California, Riverside report that they have discovered a new way to create positronium, an exotic and short-lived atom that could help answer what happened to antimatter in the universe, why nature favored matter over antimatter at the universe's creation.
Positronium is made up of an electron and its antimatter twin, the positron. It has applications in developing more accurate Positron Emission Tomography or PET scans and in fundamental physics research.
Recently, antimatter made headlines when scientists at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, trapped antihydrogen atoms for more than 15 minutes. Until then, the presence of antiatoms was recorded for only fractions of a second.
In the lab at UC Riverside, the physicists first irradiated samples of silicon with laser light. Next they implanted positrons on the surface of the silicon. They found that the laser light frees up silicon electrons that then bind with the positrons to make positronium.
"With this method, a substantial amount of positronium can be produced in a wide temperature range and in a very controllable way," said David Cassidy, an assistant project scientist in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, who performed the research along with colleagues. "Other methods of producing positronium from surfaces require heating the samples to very high temperatures. Our method, on the other hand, works at almost any temperature – including very low temperatures."
Cassidy explained that when positrons are implanted into materials, they can sometimes get stuck on the surface, where they will quickly find electrons and annihilate.
"In this work, we show that irradiating the surface with a laser just before the positrons arrive produces electrons that, ironically, help the positrons to leave the surface and avoid annihilation," said Allen Mills, a professor of physics and astronomy, in whose lab Cassidy works. "They do this by forming positronium, which is spontaneously emitted from the surface. The free positronium lives more than 200 times longer than the surface positrons, so it is easy to detect."
Study results appear in the July 15 issue of Physical Review Letters.
The researchers chose silicon in their experiments because it has wide application in electronics, is robust, cheap and works efficiently.
"Indeed, at very low temperatures, silicon may be the best thing there is for producing positronium, at least in short bursts," Cassidy said.
The researchers' eventual goal is to perform precision measurements on positronium in order to better understand antimatter and its properties, as well as how it might be isolated for longer periods of time.
Cassidy and Mills were joined in the research by Harry Tom, a professor and the chair of physics and astronomy, and Tomu H. Hisakado, a graduate student in Mills's lab.
In the near future, this research team hopes to cool the positronium down to lower energy emission levels for other experimental uses, and create also a "Bose-Einstein condensate" for positronium – a collection of positronium atoms that are in the same quantum state.
"The creation of a Bose-Einstein condensate of positronium would really push the boundaries of what is possible in terms of real precision measurements," Cassidy said. "Such measurements would shed more light on the properties of antimatter and may help us probe further into why there is asymmetry between matter and antimatter in the universe."
Grants from the National Science Foundation and the US Air Force Research Laboratory funded the study.
The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 20,500 students. The campus will open a medical school in 2012 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Graduate Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.
A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.
Iqbal Pittalwala | EurekAlert!
First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'
26.05.2017 | University of Leicester
Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect
24.05.2017 | Vienna University of Technology
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy