Science

More precise measurements take scientists one step closer towards unraveling the mystery of the antimatter

More precise measurements take scientists one step closer towards unraveling the mystery of the antimatter

Everything that we can see is made up of matter, however, out of the total particles in the universe, only 4.9% to 5% is the actual visible and ordinary matter. Similar to matter, anti-matter is the conjugate of it. Anti-matter has been a mystery over more than 2 decades ever since its existence was discovered. But, scientists at CERN have come to a step closer towards understanding the missing antimatter from the matter in the universe. Scientists were able to improve the precision of the measurement by a factor of one part per trillion which is an astounding feat, however, we are still away from understanding the nature and properties of this missing conjugate of matter.

A standard definition of matter is that the universe is made up of normal particles which are made up of matter which is a physical substance that can be observed, seen, touched, etc. On the other hand, the universe is also made up of the balance of opposites which means, if there is matter, there must be antimatter which is the type of matter produced with the same mass but with opposite electric charge. Moving further, if the matter has electrons, antimatter has anti-electrons, there are protons in the matter than there are antiprotons for antimatter and so on.

According to the standard model of physics, when matter and antimatter particles meet, they annihilate each other resulting in the total conversion of energy leaving only the leftover energy. It is said that the Big Bang resulted in the formation of matter and antimatter in equal proportion resulting in total annihilation. However, due to some anomaly, there were one billion and one particle of matter for every one billion particles of antimatter of which, one billion particles of both the type of matters annihilated resulting in a leftover which made up the universe as we know today.

Scientists are experimenting with the types of matter to determine why matter survived the Big Bang but not antimatter if it is assumed that both types of matter behave the same way. This ignited a separate research program at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) which is the largest particle accelerator in the world. Stefan Ulmer, a physicist at Riken in Wako, Japan, and the team conducted the ALPHA project on hydrogen and antihydrogen, its conjugate, to check if there’s slight deviation between the properties of these two types of matter and other properties.

In an earlier study, physicists took ordinary hydrogen atom which is the basic and simplest element with a single electron revolving around a single proton and then, they created its antihydrogen where 50,000 atoms of antihydrogen were created using 90,000 antiprotons and 3 million positrons. These atoms were passed through an 11” magnetic cylindrical tube which caught only 20 atoms of the total 50,000 atoms. Fast further to the research paper published in journal Nature on April 4, the team including physicist Jeffrey Hangst, co-author of the research paper were able to precisely measure 15,000 atoms of antihydrogen atoms which were suspended with powerful magnets to prevent annihilation upon contact.

Beams of lasers when propelled towards these antihydrogens to study the frequency of light the atoms absorb or emit after being shot to jump from lower energy to higher energy levels. The findings of light absorbed, energy levels, etc of antihydrogen were identical to its hydrogen counterparts with a precision of 2 parts per trillion which is an improvement of one part per billion. However, researchers want to perform more precise hydrogen spectroscopy to take the precision levels to the factor of 1,000 parts.

Finally, the conclusion of the research was out as per which, matter and antimatter behave identically just as expected. With more precise measurements, scientists do know that matter and antimatter are identical at least as of parts per trillion. Further investigations can unravel the mystery of antimatter and how it reacts with gravity and other related questions that have been making rounds of the physics world.

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