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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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
Latest stories from i100
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

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc