Cern scientists shatter antimatter record

How do you store a substance which vanishes into thin air the moment it comes into contact with any material known to man, even thin air itself?

That was the question vexing scientists attempting to capture antimatter, the mysterious substance that ceases to exist as soon as it encounters its nemesis, matter.

Now, an international team at the Cern institute in Switzerland has managed to create 300 atoms of "antihydrogen" and stop them from collapsing into oblivion for a grand total of almost 17 minutes.

That might not sound impressive to those without a PhD in particle physics, but it was 5,000 times longer than the 172 milliseconds they had previously achieved.

The research, published in the journal Nature Physics, represents a landmark in one of the most potentially profound areas of science.

Antimatter, which has long been the preserve of science fiction, was created in the laboratory for the first time last November. The atoms are the opposite of normal atoms, consisting of negatively-charged protons and positively-charged electrons. If they come into contact with normal atoms they are mutually annihilated.

The significance is that scientists believe matter and antimatter should have been created in equal amounts in the Big Bang, destroying each other so that nothing should have been left to form the universe. The fact we exist and that so much matter remained after this cataclysmic battle is one of the greatest scientific puzzles still to be solved.

The team at Cern have now perfected a way of using a magnetic field to hold antihydrogen, the most simple of antimatter atoms, in isolation for much longer than previously possible. This enables them to conduct far more thorough observations and experiments on the substance, the hope being that some of the biggest secrets about how we came into being will eventually be revealed.

Professor Joel Fajans, a member of the team from the University of California, told i it was beneficial to keep the antimatter atoms for longer because it guaranteed they would be more stable, making it easier to analyse them with lasers beams and microwaves. He said that had the vacuum been working better it would have been feasible to maintain the atoms for as long as a couple of hours.

On The Big Screen

Angels & Demons, 2009

Terrorists plant an antimatter bomb underneath the Vatican, which threatens to destroy Rome.

Star Trek, 1966

The controlled annihilation of matter and antimatter is used to fuel the Starship Enterprise's warp engines.

Star Wars, 1977-2005

The Jedi Interceptor hyperdrive rings use antimatter to provide the starship with enough density to remain in hyperspace. Antimatter is also used in a range of weapons.

Avatar, 2009

Mile-long interstellar spaceships fitted with hybrid antimatter fusion engines can cruise at 670 million miles per hour.

From Nasa: "Evidence indicates our galaxy is made of matter. But the Big Bang theory requires equal amounts of matter and antimatter."

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Technical Project Assistant - Hampshire - up to 45K

£40000 - £45000 per annum + 23 days holiday, pension scheme: Deerfoot IT Resou...

Senior Multimedia Developer - Southampton - up to £34.5K

£30000 - £34500 per annum + 36 days holiday, Pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Li...

Health & Social CareTeacher

£100 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Health & Social Care T...

RE Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Temporary Teacher of RE require...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice