Cern scientists trap antimatter

Cern scientists trap antimatter

Summary: Researchers have produced and captured anti-hydrogen atoms using strong magnetic fields in the Alpha experiment at Cern

TOPICS: Emerging Tech

Physicists at Cern have taken a major step forward in antimatter research, according to the European science organisation.

For the first time, scientists have managed to produce antimatter atoms and trap them using magnetic fields, the world's premier particle physics laboratory announced in a statement on Wednesday.

Learning how to trap the antimatter atoms, which were anti-hydrogen, will allow scientists from Cern's Alpha experiment to study the antiparticles, Cern told ZDNet UK on Wednesday. "This is a momentous step in the study of antimatter," Alpha experiment spokesman Jeffrey Hangst said.

While thousands of anti-hydrogen atoms were created, 38 were captured. The anti-hydrogen atoms were trapped for 0.17 seconds — long enough to study the antimatter, Hangst said — but can theoretically be held for much longer.

Normally, when antimatter particles are produced, they are annihilated when they come into contact with matter, Hangst explained. Anti-hydrogen is produced in a vacuum, but still has a short life expectancy.

The study of antimatter is further hampered as magnetic fields, which can be used to prevent matter and antimatter colliding, have little effect on neutrally charged antimatter. Anti-hydrogen atoms consist of an antiproton, which has a negative charge, and a positron, which is positively charged, Hangst said. When these particles combine, they have a neutral charge.

Nevertheless, there is still a weak interaction between anti-hydrogen and a strong magnetic field, if the antimatter is cold enough. Hangst said that anti-hydrogen needs to be 0.5 degrees above absolute zero to be trapped.

The next stage of the experiment is to work out for how long antimatter atoms can be captured, and how many can be produced. After that, the Alpha experiment will be taken apart and rebuilt so that scientists can shine lasers into the antimatter to see if it absorbs light. The Standard Model of physics, a group of hypotheses about how physics works, predicts that matter and antimatter should behave in the same way. The anti-hydrogen should therefore absorb the same wavelengths of light as hydrogen atoms, Hangst said.

Topic: Emerging Tech

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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  • great great great.........................this is the beginning of new era.thanks is not enough for the scientists.
  • Seems like they are going to great lengths to capture very small amounts of matter. Trying to contain individual atoms of AntiHydrogen seems way too difficult an approach. A simpler approach would be to simply create AntiMolecules of water, and heat them to a gaseous form. The anti hydrogen and anti oxygen would be naturally attracted to one another just like in normal water, the heat would ionize a portion of the anti-steam allowing the antimatter gas to be more easily contained by a magnetic field. Basically use nature's natural rest states, molecules, or presumably nature's corollary rest state of anti-molecules to help keep anti-matter together. Then use magnetic fields to keep the anti-molecules away from normal matter.
  • this was donde like a gigayear ago DDD: they have already made a discovery channel documental about this, like 2 years ago! OMG! whats with your updates?!?!
  • Smarthomes,

    A couple of things. First off, dealing with a molecule, especially one with the molar mass and polar nature of water and its phase changes, etc. in an accelerator/collider is much more complex than you think.
    Second, it is safest and smartest to go through the extra energy to deal in smaller units when we are exploring quantum states. Assuming, the paranoids were right and black holes were formed in creation of antimatter, doing it on a scale of elemental hydrogen leaves a lot less room for catastrophe. H2O on the other hand is going to be much harder to control should things go wrong.
    For decades we have been defining elements in fractions of a second. Most of the experimentally determined elements are the result of such experiments. And to call water, nature's rest state seems vague to me. If that was the case, would there ever be free hydrogen or oxygen? It would all be bound in H2O, wouldn't it?
    Lastly, the reason these things are cooled is all elements become para magnetic when supercooled. Adding heat to the system is scary and pointless since it would reduce the magnetism of the water itself. Sailors use compasses to find their way because water is not magnetic. It is polar, but if you know MO theory, you would know that it is not very magnetic, so you would be adding a ton of risk and complication in order to do what you are suggesting.

    -- To all, please do not read a wiki article and proclaim yourself to be a chemist nor a physicist. You look silly doing it.
  • So, the moderator likes to remove well thought out replies that attempt to address ignorance? Screw you ZDnet. I thought this was a place for bright people. I guess like the rest of the internet only ignorance, hatred, and fear are welcome here.
  • Just because you saw it on Angels and Demons, it doesn't mean it was done. What was done is Antimatter was created. It was not captured for observation until recently. How about you look at what was actually done instead of what Hollywood told you was done?
  • I have seen an event by lightning that when researched has shown to be the antimatter found by the FERIlab satellite. Relativistic Perturbation Mantle is the name for this antimatter from lightning. A great find to help stabilize their antimatter. You can see a video about my discovery at