Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Production and detection of cold antihydrogen atoms

Abstract

A theoretical underpinning of the standard model of fundamental particles and interactions is CPT invariance, which requires that the laws of physics be invariant under the combined discrete operations of charge conjugation, parity and time reversal. Antimatter, the existence of which was predicted by Dirac, can be used to test the CPT theorem—experimental investigations involving comparisons of particles with antiparticles are numerous1. Cold atoms and anti-atoms, such as hydrogen and antihydrogen, could form the basis of a new precise test, as CPT invariance implies that they must have the same spectrum. Observations of antihydrogen in small quantities and at high energies have been reported at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)2 and at Fermilab3, but these experiments were not suited to precision comparison measurements. Here we demonstrate the production of antihydrogen atoms at very low energy by mixing trapped antiprotons and positrons in a cryogenic environment. The neutral anti-atoms have been detected directly when they escape the trap and annihilate, producing a characteristic signature in an imaging particle detector.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Central part of the ATHENA apparatus and trapping potential.
Figure 2: Experimental data.
Figure 3: Colour contour plots of the distribution (obtained by projecting into the plane perpendicular to the magnetic field) of the vertex positions of reconstructed events.

References

  1. 1

    Hagiwara, K. et al. The review of particle physics. Phys. Rev. D 66, 010001 (2002)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Baur, G. et al. Production of antihydrogen. Phys. Lett. B 368, 251–258 (1996)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Blanford, G. et al. Observation of atomic antihydrogen. Phys. Rev. Lett. 80, 3037–3040 (1998)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Niering, M. et al. Measurement of the hydrogen 1S-2S transition frequency by phase coherent comparison with a microwave cesium fountain clock. Phys. Rev. Lett. 84, 5496–5499 (2000)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Hellemans, A. Through the looking glass. Nature 406, 556–558 (2000)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Dehmelt, H. Experiments with an isolated subatomic particle at rest. Rev. Mod. Phys. 62, 525–530 (1990)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Fujiwara, M. C. et al. Producing slow antihydrogen for a test of CPT symmetry with ATHENA. Hyperfine Interactions (in the press)

  8. 8

    Testera, G. et al. Toward the production of antihydrogen at rest in ATHENA. Nucl. Instrum. Methods A 461, 253–255 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Surko, C. M., Gilbert, S. J. & Greaves, R. G. Non-Neutral Plasma Physics (eds Bollinger, J. J., Spencer, R. L. & Davidson, R. C.) Vol. 3, 3–12 (American Institute of Physics, New York, 1999)

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Jørgensen, L. V., van der Werf, D. P., Watson, T. L., Charlton, M. & Collier, M. J. T. Nonneutral Plasma Physics (eds Anderegg, F., Schweikhard, L. & Driscoll, C. F.) Vol. 4, 35–44 (American Institute of Physics, New York, 2002)

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Gabrielse, G., Rolston, S., Haarsma, L. & Kells, W. Antihydrogen production using trapped plasmas. Phys. Lett. A 129, 38–42 (1988)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Tinkle, M. D., Greaves, R. G., Surko, C. M., Spencer, R. L. & Mason, G. W. Low-order modes as diagnostics of spheroidal non-neutral plasmas. Phys. Rev. Lett. 72, 352–355 (1994)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Regenfus, C. A cryogenic silicon micro strip and pure-CsI detector for detection of antihydrogen annihilations. Nucl. Instrum. Methods A (in the press)

  14. 14

    Bendiscioli, G. & Kharzeev, D. Antinucleon–nucleon and antinucleon–nucleus interaction, a review of experimental data. Rivista Nuovo. Cim. 17(6), 1–42 (1994)

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Amsler, C. et al. Temperature dependence of pure CsI: scintillation light yield and decay time. Nucl. Instrum. Methods A 480, 494–500 (2002)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Charlton, M. & Humberston, J. W. Positron Physics (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2001)

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Gabrielse, G. et al. First positron cooling of antiprotons. Phys. Lett. B 507, 1–6 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Calligarich, E., Dolfini, R., Genoni, M. & Rotondi, A. A fast algorithm for vertex estimation. Nucl. Instrum. Methods A 311, 151–155 (1992)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors comprise the ATHENA Collaboration. We would like to thank G. Bendiscioli, S. Bricola, P. Chiggiato, J. Hansen, H. Higaki, A. Lanza, C. Marciano, O. Meshkov, P. Salvini, G. Sobrero, B. Schmid and E. Søndergaard. We also thank the CERN AD team and C. Surko, who provided essential advice. This work was supported by Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (Italy), Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Technológico, Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ) e Fundação CCMN/UFRJ (Brazil), Grant-in-Aid for Creative Basic Research of Monbukagakusho (Japan), the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Danish Natural Science Research Council, The UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), The EU (Eurotraps Network), and the Royal Society. L.V.J., M.H.H., M.C. and J.S.H. acknowledge the work of the late B. Deutch.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to J. S. Hangst.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Amoretti, M., Amsler, C., Bonomi, G. et al. Production and detection of cold antihydrogen atoms. Nature 419, 456–459 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature01096

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing