To boldly go where no science has gone before

Posted By News On February 13, 2017 - 2:32pm

The Big Bang should have created equal amounts of matter and antimatter yet good luck finding that to be so. Antimatter is instead so scarce it can be the plot of terrible Dan Brown books (and then movies) but we know it is there; PET scans (positron emission tomography) for cancer diagnosis use positrons, the antimatter particle of the electron.

Existing hypotheses assume symmetry in nature, so there is an antimatter mirror image of our matter universe, yet we can't find it. Antimatter is instead difficult to investigate because when an antiparticle and a particle meet they annihilate each other, disappearing in a flash of energy, so a trapping device is needed. A core requirement is to produce the antimatter particles in sufficient quantity and cool them so they are slow enough to study, and that is now starting to happen.

"When the new ELENA (Extra Low ENergy Antiproton ring) comes online at CERN later this year it will be the first and only facility in the world able to store and then deliver cooled antiproton beams at low energy,” explains Professor Carsten P. Welsch of the Cockcroft Institute and Head of Physics at the University of Liverpool. A new group, AVA (Accelerators Validating Antimatter physics) hopes to develop the tools and techniques required to optimize low energy storage rings and control the antiproton beams they produce.

Although antimatter would provide an unprecedented source of energy, the academic scientists see that just as bait to get funding. Instead, they believe once have optimized the technology for antiprotons, the most exotic particles, then the instrumentation will have many other applications.

AVA currently has 13 industry partners, 5 universities and 8 research centers.