Thursday, May 5, 2011

CERN Traps Antimatter Atoms for 16 Minutes

A team of particle physicists at CERN's Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus (ALPHA) have trapped 309 atoms of antimatter for more than a quarter of an hour. 

When CERN first created and trapped antimatter, back in November 2010, researchers held onto the fleeting antihydrogen atoms for just 170 milliseconds, or a tenth of a second. 

Antihydrogen atoms have a super short life span. As soon as they come into contact with normal hydrogen atoms the antimatter is annihilated.

The team at ALPHA figured out how to isolate the atoms and hold a cloud of them in a magnetic field, but it released the antimatter after a confinement time of just 172 ms. 

Now the team has repeated the experiment, but kept the atoms trapped in the magnetic snare for 1,000 seconds -- just under 17 minutes.