By Stephanie Rogers
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
Opening the door to a new understanding of the physics underlying astrophysical phenomena like black holes and gamma ray bursts, scientists recently figured out how to create billions of particles of anti-matter in a laboratory. They took a gold sample the size of a head of a push pin, shot a laser through it and a cone-shaped plasma ‘jet’ of more than 100 billion positrons appeared.
The discovery will also give scientists new avenues of anti-matter research, which could reveal why more matter than anti-matter survived the Big Bang at the start of the universe.
“We’ve detected far more anti-matter than anyone else has ever measured in a laser experiment,” said Hui Chen, a Livermore researcher who led the experiment. “We’ve demonstrated the creation of a significant number of positrons using a short-pulse laser.” Chen and her colleagues used a short, ultra-intense laser to irradiate a millimeter-thick gold target. “Previously, we concentrated on making positrons using paper-thin targets,” said Scott Wilks, who designed and modeled the experiment using computer codes. “But recent simulations showed that millimeter-thick gold would produce far more positrons. We were very excited to see so many of them.”
Though laser production of anti-matter isn’t entirely new, researchers have never been able to produce so many particles of it before. Now, physicists envision a center for antimatter research that will use lasers as cheaper anti-matter factories.
How many Star Trek fans out there right now are trying to calculate just how much closer we just got to creating a real warp drive?