Trapping antihydrogen atoms at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has become so routine that physicists are confident that they can soon begin experiments on this rare antimatter equivalent of the hydrogen atom, according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.
“We’ve trapped antihydrogen atoms for as long as 1,000 seconds, which is forever” in the world of high-energy particle physics, said Joel Fajans, UC Berkeley professor of physics, faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a member of the ALPHA (Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus) experiment at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.
The ALPHA team is hard at work building a new antihydrogen trap with “the hope that by 2012 we will have a new trap with laser access to allow spectroscopic experiments on the antiatoms,” he said.
Fajans and the ALPHA team, which includes Jonathan Wurtele, UC Berkeley professor of physics, will publish their latest successes online on June 5 in advance of print publication in the journal Nature Physics. Fajans, Wurtele and their graduate students played major roles in designing the antimatter trap and other aspects of the experiment.
Their paper reports that in a series of measurements last year, the team trapped 112 antiatoms for times ranging from one-fifth of a second to 1,000 seconds, or 16 minutes and 40 seconds.
Since the experiment first successfully trapped antihydrogen atoms in 2009, the researchers have captured 309.
“We’d prefer being able to trap a thousand atoms for a thousand seconds, but we can still initiate laser and microwave experiments to explore the properties of antiatoms,” Fajans said.