Feeds

Boffins create tabletop ANTIMATTER GUN

Petawatt laser is positronic gold

Application security programs and practises

It generally takes a decent-sized particle accelerator to produce antimatter, but a team of physicists working at the University of Michigan says they've developed a table-top system that can create short bursts of positrons – anti-electrons.

Their metre-long device creates electron-positron pairs by firing a petawatt laser at helium gas. For this they used the HERCULES laser at the university*.

This results in a stream of electrons moving at relatavistic speeds, which are directed to a thin gold foil. The collisions between the high-speed electrons and the individual metal atoms resulted in a stream of electrons and positrons, which are easily separated using magnets.

Each 30 femtosecond firing of the laser produces “quadrillions” of positrons, the researchers say, which is comparable to the densities observed at CERN.

Never fear, however: as the image below shows, a mere lump of Teflon is sufficient to absorb the positrons, so the setup doesn't actually risk the earth-shattering kaboom of a matter-antimatter annihilation.

One reason researchers are interested in making antimatter experiments accessible outside the rarefied world of big particle colliders is because electrons and positrons make up the jet streams emitted by black holes and pulsars. Clearly, producing them in labs is simpler and more accessible to measurement than relying solely on what's observed by astronomers.

In the abstract of their paper, the international team that worked out of the University of Michigan states that “The detected positron beam propagates with a high-density electron beam and γ rays of similar spectral shape and peak energy, thus closely resembling the structure of an astrophysical leptonic jet. It is envisaged that this experimental evidence, besides the intrinsic relevance to laser-driven particle acceleration, may open the pathway for the small-scale study of astrophysical leptonic jets in the laboratory”.

Antimatter gun

The experimental setup: it fits on a tabletop

- if you don't count the room-sized laser! Source: University of Michigan

As the pre-press version of the paper at Arxiv notes, the setup might also be useful for observing matter / antimatter asymmetries, as well as optically-driven electron-positron collider setups. ®

*Bootnote: HERCULES is somewhat larger than “tabletop” size. It's a rather large beast – so perhaps the description is stretching things just a little. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.