An award winning Japanese scientist is hoping to crack a physics problem that has so far seemed untouchable – literally.
|Dr Masaki Hori is hoping to store the ever ellusive antimatter.|
Dr Masaki Hori is aiming to break new ground in handling and storing antimatter, something that has so far proved incredibly difficult due to its tendency to annihilate within a trillionth of second when it comes into contact with normal matter.
His project was chosen for a EURYI Award – a scheme set up to attract outstanding young researchers from anywhere in the world to work in Europe – due to the novel approach he has taken to store anti-matter, in this case sub-atomic particles called anti-protons.
“The newness here is that I want to use radiofrequency (and not magnetic fields like other experimental groups) to store the antiprotons,” said Hori. “The advantage is that the gadget can then be made quite compact, maybe the size of an office wastebasket.” Hori calls this new basket, the ‘superconducting radiofrequency quadrupole trap’.
Hori plans to exploit this new device to create new complete atoms comprising anti-matter and then conduct experiments that prove these really do behave exactly as physicists have predicted.
Antimatter is very difficult to make, and even harder to store afterwards, and as such currently has to be isolated and manipulated indirectly. Until now this has only been possible in large expensive apparatus using electric or magnetic fields to contain the antimatter.
Antimatter is not just of academic interest, because it has already been applied with great success in medical diagnosis in the PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scanner, which has saved many lives. Positrons are the anti-matter opposite of electrons, carrying a positive rather than negative charge.
Indeed, Hori anticipates an exciting future for antimatter, with many potential applications, he stopped short though of suggesting it could be used as a source of energy for powering space ships, as had been raised by others in the field.