Annihilation Lasers and the First Antimatter Molecule

Author:  Charley Wang
Institution:  University of Toronto
Date:  October 2007

Imagine a laser hundreds of times more powerful than any laser known to man, an antimatter lattice that can trap even light, or a molecule that holds the secrets to the universe's greatest bias. This may seem strange, but a recent study conducted by David Cassidy and Allen Mills of the University of California Riverside, detailed the creation of dipositronium – the antimatter equivalent of hydrogen gas.

But the story begins at the birth of universe, when it is believed that equal quantities of matter and antimatter were created. However, some time during the universe's life, all the antimatter just disappeared - and we still don't know why.

Antimatter itself is very similar to matter and disappeared mysteriously shortly after the birth of the universe. In order to create antimatter molecules, the UC team collected some 20 million anti-protons and fired them into a film of porous silica (quartz). "Silica acts in effect like a useful cage, trapping positronium atoms," said Cassidy. Within this trap, positronium atoms are forced to interact with each other, thereby forming dipositronium.

The creation of this small, short-lived molecule has many resounding implications.

First, it opens the door for exploration of antimatter chemistry. Do these mirror particles bond the same way, or are they somehow different? The answers we find could help us understand the matter that dominates the universe.

Second, increasing the density of the dipositronium could create an antimatter Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC). A BEC is a collection of atoms so low in energy that they act like one giant atom, so dense that not even light can escape.

Finally, Cassidy and Mills believe that destroying an antimatter BEC can release a powerful burst of energy - a gamma ray annihilation laser hundreds of times more powerful than anything we have developed to date.

According to Cassidy, "A gamma-ray laser is the kind of thing that if it existed people would find new uses for it every day."

This technology is still distant, but the techniques used by Cassidy and his UC team are a huge step forward.

Author - Charley Wang

Reviewed by: Dennis Jiang

Published by: Konrad Sawicki