Physicists Transform Pure Energy into Matter and Antimatter, creating new physics


There is evidence for the formation of matter and antimatter from energy, namely light particles, according to a recent study published in Physical Review Letters (photons). In doing so, it provides a wonderful, concrete illustration of the most well-known equation in the world, E=mc2. The equation, derived by Einstein, governs how energy (E) is equivalent to mass (m) times the speed of light (c) squared. Researchers at the Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), which is a component of the Department of Energy, were successful in converting pairs of light particles, which are energy, into electrons and positrons, which are matter (matter being that which has mass). Positrons are actually antimatter, yet antimatter also has the same energy-mass relationship as matter.


By using beams of gold ions, the researchers were able to produce matter-antimatter couples. They created positively charged ions out of gold atoms by removing all of their electrons, and then they blasted the ions past one other at speeds approaching ultrarelativity (99.995% the speed of light, or nearly 186,000 miles per second). Strong magnetic field generated by the ions revolves around them. We refer to the electromagnetic field created by the interaction of this magnetic field and the perpendicular electric field as photons, or light. These photon clouds accompany the ions as they move through the particle accelerator.


The experiment's setup was described by Zhangbu Xu, a physicist at Brookhaven Lab and a member of the RHIC's STAR (Solenoid Tracker at RHIC) Collaboration. "We have two clouds of photons moving in opposite directions with enough energy and intensity that when the two ions graze past each other without colliding, those photon fields can interact," he said.

Although a comparable outcome was obtained in 1997 at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the procedure there was more difficult and required more steps. According to Daniel Brandenburg, a Goldhaber Fellow at Brookhaven Lab, this discovery stands out as "clear evidence of direct, one-step synthesis of matter-antimatter couples from collisions of light as originally predicted by [20th century physicists Gregory] Breit and [John A.] Wheeler." Another previously theorised prediction about the interaction of polarised photons and vacuums in empty space is also supported by the study. In the 20th century, physicists Werner Heisenberg, Hans Heinrich Euler, and John Toll expressly predicted that if the vacuum itself was polarised, some polarised photons would be deflected from it. Vacuum birefringence is a phenomena that has not previously been seen in any Earth-based experiment.

Similar to how polarised eyeglasses prevent some light from entering through their lenses, the vacuum and magnetic field also block and absorb some light. The electron-positron couples are then formed from this light. Because "...the angular distribution of the [electron-positron couples] relies on the angle of polarisation of the light," the researchers were able to establish this connection. This suggests that the polarisation of light affects its absorption (or passage), according to Chi Yang, a STAR collaborator from Shandong University.


Deeper understanding of vacuums, how they interact with light, and how energy and matter are related is provided by this research. With the help of cutting-edge, potent technology, we can confirm (or refute) historical and contemporary forecasts, slowly progressing in our quest to comprehend and appreciate the universe that created us and everything we know.

Reference:  Physical Review LettersBrookhaven National Laboratory

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