TechScientists upgrade antimatter experiment control system at CERN

Scientists upgrade antimatter experiment control system at CERN

Polish success in antimatter research
Polish success in antimatter research
Images source: © CERN

7:45 AM EST, February 23, 2024

The team from the Warsaw University of Technology played an essential role in a groundbreaking experiment, which could possibly herald a new era in antimatter research. As a part of this experiment, scientists were able to cool an antielectron sample with laser light. The experiment occurred at the Swiss laboratory CERN and has been discussed in the esteemed scientific journal entitled "Physical Review Letters".

The global team of scientists at CERN strives to accurately measure the speed of acceleration at which a neutral antihydrogen atom falls within Earth's gravitational field. As a part of the AEgIS project (Antimatter Experiment: gravity, Interferometry, Spectroscopy), the scientists are also keen to test the weak equivalence principle. This principle asserts that the freefall of any body isn't impacted by its mass, composition, or internal structure. As a part of the project, scientists aim to ascertain whether this principle is applicable even to objects composed of antimatter.

The creation of antihydrogen, which involves a positron orbiting an antiproton, is a complex process. An antiproton beam, which is produced and slowed down in the antimatter factory, is directed towards a cloud of positronium, which consists of an electron orbiting a positron. This cloud is generated by putting positrons in nanoporous silica. When the antiproton and positron encounter one another in the positronium cloud, the latter lends its positron to the antiproton, resulting in the creation of antihydrogen.

However, this process is intricate and comes with its own set of challenges. The entire antimatter system, positronium, has a very brief lifespan—an ephemeral 142 billionths of a second. Despite this, due to its simple structure, it’s appealing for research purposes and results in the hunt for unexplored physical phenomena. But, this necessitates extreme cooling of the positronium sample.

Accomplishment of Polish scientists

The team from the Warsaw University of Technology made progress in this area, enhancing the control system of the experiment. As announced by the Warsaw University of Technology press office, they successfully reduced the sample's temperature from 716 to a mere 98 degrees Fahrenheit. They used an uncommon, broadband laser for the purpose, which can cool a larger section of the sample.

The scientists are hopeful that this major stride will enable them to carry out highly accurate measurements of matter-antimatter systems. This could consequently lead to the discovery of new physical laws. In the long term, the AEgIS experiments could pave the way for a gamma radiation laser, which could be incredibly beneficial for fundamental and applied research.

"The team from the Warsaw University of Technology was instrumental in upgrading the control system of the experiment at CERN. We introduced open-source Sinara/ARTIQ software and an open hardware solution, in place of the previously used custom-made electronics. The control system is used to manage individual apparatus components and to plan experimental sequences. Our group was also involved in developing online visualizations and a data processing platform," said Dr. Georgy Kornakov, the leader of the team from PW operating in the AEgIS scientific consortium.

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