The laser beam needed to examine the antihydrogen is created here. Photo: Maximilien Brice/Cern.

“During the autumn, we were able to see energy conversion in an antihydrogen atom, and now we have a starting point for future investigations,” says Svante Jonsell, senior lecturer at Stockholm University and “theorist in residence” for the ALPHA experiment at CERN.

Five years ago, he and his colleagues were the first to capture atoms of antimatter. Since then, they have been improving the study of antimatter: capturing it for longer of periods of time, collecting larger samples, and improving the measurement equipment.

Svante Jonsell.
Svante Jonsell.

“There should be as much matter as antimatter in the universe, but that’s not the case, at least with the visible universe. There are also things that we don’t know about antimatter. So, when we find differences in how hydrogen and antihydrogen behaves, they can point us to the faults in existing theories,” says Svante Jonsell.

The Standard Model of particle physics postulates that the same amount of matter and antimatter was created during the Big Bang. Expanding from this model, hydrogen and antihydrogen should have equal levels of energy. These energy levels can now be determined with laser spectroscopy. However, because antimatter is destroyed upon contact with matter, it’s a major challenge to capture antimatter and conduct these experiments.

“It would be fantastic to overturn the Standard Model. It’s every physicist’s dream to crush a widely held theory.”

Read the entire article, “Observation of the 1S-2S transition in trapped antihydrogen,” on nature.com.