UCSD physicists James Danielson, Clifford Surko and Craig Schallhorn (left to right) inspect the apparatus they are using to develop the world’s largest trap for low-energy positrons, planned to hold a trillion or more antiparticles. (Photo Credit: Kim McDonald, UCSD)
Clifford Surko, a professor of physics at UC San Diego who is constructing what he hopes will be the world’s largest antimatter container, said physicists have recently developed new methods to make special states of antimatter in which they can create large clouds of antiparticles, compress them and make specially tailored beams for a variety of uses.
He described the progress made in this area, including his own efforts, at the annual meeting in Washington, DC, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His talk, “Taming Dirac’s Particle,” led off the session entitled “Through the Looking Glass: Recent Adventures in Antimatter,” at 1:30 pm on February 18.
“We are now working to accumulate trillions of positrons or more in a novel ‘multi-cell’ trap—an array of magnetic bottles akin to a hotel with many rooms, with each room containing tens of billions of antiparticles,” he said.
“These developments are enabling many new studies of nature. Examples include the formation and study of antihydrogen, the antimatter counterpart of hydrogen; the investigation of electron-positron plasmas, similar to those believed to be present at the magnetic poles of neutron stars, using a device now being developed at Columbia University; and the creation of much larger bursts of positrons which could eventually enable the creation of an annihilation gamma ray laser.”
“An exciting long-term goal of the work is the creation of portable traps for antimatter,” added Surko. “This would increase greatly the ability to use and exploit antiparticles in our matter world in situations where radioisotope- or accelerator-based positron sources are inconvenient to arrange.”