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CERN scientists refine antimatter `trap`

Last Updated: Sunday, June 5, 2011 - 21:21

Geneva: Nuclear scientists announced on Sunday they have found a way to "trap" for more than 15 minutes elusive antimatter atoms that used to disappear after a
fraction of a second.

That will give scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research time to study the atoms properly, in the hope of understanding what happened during the first moments of the universe.

The achievement is a significant improvement on earlier attempts to trap antihydrogen, which like all antimatter has a tendency to disappear before scientists have time to examine it.

"We went from two-tenths of a second to 1,000 seconds," said American scientist Jeffrey Hangst, a spokesman for the ALPHA research team working at the world`s biggest particle physics lab, known by its French acronym CERN, on the Swiss-French border.

The team improved the efficiency of the antimatter trap by cooling antihydrogen atoms down to less than 0.5 degrees above absolute zero. Their research was published online in the journal Nature Physics.

Hangst said extending the lifetime of antihydrogen means scientists can be sure it has enough time to settle so it can be probed and compared with hydrogen atoms.

The team will begin firing microwaves and then lasers at trapped antihydrogen later this year.

Phillip F. Schewe, a spokesman for the American Institute of Physics, said refining the antimatter trap was a great feat of physics engineering.

Bureau Report

First Published: Sunday, June 5, 2011 - 21:21
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