Progress in Laser cooling of antihydrogen atoms which allow more precise meaurements

Researchers report the observation of the 1S–2P, Lyman-α transition in antihydrogen, based on 966 detected events and an estimated background of 14 events.

They will use the laser cooling innovation to help produce cold and dense sample of anti-atoms for precision spectroscopy and gravity measurements.

For each experimental sequence, about 500 antihydrogen atoms were accumulated in the trapping region by multiple stacking (typically 30 stacks) over an approximately two-hour period. Experience from past microwave manipulation experiments indicates that the 1Sc and 1Sd states are equally populated in the initially trapped sample. The trapped atoms were irradiated for about two hours by laser pulses using a 10-Hz repetition rate.

They directly characterizing the kinetic energy of anti-atoms from their TOF to annihilation, following the laser-induced transition. These observations represent very important steps in the field of low-energy antimatter studies. The techniques of optical manipulations and laser cooling, which have revolutionized the field of atomic physics over the past few decades, are about to be applied to anti-atoms.

Simulations predict that cooling to about 20 mK is possible with the current ALPHA-2 set-up. This, combined with other planned improvements, would reduce the 1S–2S transition line width by more than an order of magnitude and should eventually allow various other spectroscopic measurements with precisions approaching those achieved in hydrogen. At such levels of precision, antihydrogen spectroscopy will have an impact on the determination of fundamental constants, in addition to providing elegant tests of CPT symmetry. Furthermore, laser cooling will be crucial for a precision test of the weak equivalence principle via antihydrogen free fall or anti-atom interferometry at the 10−2 level and beyond. Access to the 2P state in antihydrogen greatly expands the future experimental horizon; for example, they will now be able to study fine-structure effects in an anti-atom.

Nature – Observation of the 1S–2P Lyman-α transition in antihydrogen

In 1906, Theodore Lyman discovered his eponymous series of transitions in the extreme-ultraviolet region of the atomic hydrogen spectrum. The patterns in the hydrogen spectrum helped to establish the emerging theory of quantum mechanics, which we now know governs the world at the atomic scale. Since then, studies involving the Lyman-α line—the 1S–2P transition at a wavelength of 121.6 nanometres—have played an important part in physics and astronomy, as one of the most fundamental atomic transitions in the Universe. For example, this transition has long been used by astronomers studying the intergalactic medium and testing cosmological models via the so-called ‘Lyman-α forest’ of absorption lines at different redshifts. Here we report the observation of the Lyman-α transition in the antihydrogen atom, the antimatter counterpart of hydrogen. Using narrow-line-width, nanosecond-pulsed laser radiation, the 1S–2P transition was excited in magnetically trapped antihydrogen. The transition frequency at a field of 1.033 tesla was determined to be 2,466,051.7 ± 0.12 gigahertz (1σ uncertainty) and agrees with the prediction for hydrogen to a precision of 5 × 10−8. Comparisons of the properties of antihydrogen with those of its well-studied matter equivalent allow precision tests of fundamental symmetries between matter and antimatter. Alongside the ground-state hyperfine and 1S–2S transitions recently observed in antihydrogen, the Lyman-α transition will permit laser cooling of antihydrogen thus providing a cold and dense sample of anti-atoms for precision spectroscopy and gravity measurements. In addition to the observation of this fundamental transition, this work represents both a decisive technological step towards laser cooling of antihydrogen, and the extension of antimatter spectroscopy to quantum states possessing orbital angular momentum.


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