Antimatter research collaboration named Physics World’s top 2010 breakthrough
The Physics World 2010 Breakthrough of the Year has been awarded to two international teams of physicists – including researchers from Swansea University’s Department of Physics – who have created new ways of controlling antiatoms of hydrogen.
The collaborative ALPHA (Anti-hydrogen Laser PHysics Apparatus) project at CERN – the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, in Geneva – announced its findings in late November, in leading science journal Nature.
The team, which includes Swansea academics Professor Mike Charlton, Dr Niels Madsen, Dr Dirk Peter van der Werf, and Dr Stefan Eriksson, detailed in an article entitled “Trapped Anti-hydrogen”, how they had reached a significant milestone by successfully trapping and holding 38 antihydrogen atoms – an antielectron orbiting and antiproton – for about 170::ms.
This is long enough to measure their spectroscopic properties in detail, which the team hope to start in 2011.
Physics World reports that just weeks later, the ASACUSA group at CERN announced that it had made a major breakthrough towards creating a beam of antihydrogen that is suitable for spectroscopic studies.
Announcing the 2010 winner, Physics World said: “The antihydrogen breakthroughs scooped our first prize because it ought to now be possible to carry out the first detailed studies of the energy levels in antihydrogen.
“Any slight differences in the levels compared to ordinary hydrogen could shed light on one of the biggest mysteries in physics – why there is so much more matter than antimatter in the universe.”
Professor Mike Charlton, who leads the Swansea University team, said: “We are all delighted that our antihydrogen work has been recognised by the wider scientific community as a vital milestone in the development of antimatter research.”
With the stage now set for the future, Dr Niels Madsen, who is currently on sabbatical at CERN after winning a prestigious Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship, added: “We are now gearing up for the next phase of the project, which will involve our most challenging and fascinating experiments to date; the first spectroscopic interrogation of an anti-atom.”
For more information on the Physics World top 10 breakthroughs for 2010, visit http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/44618, and on Swansea University’s Department of Physics visit http://www.swansea.ac.uk/physics/.