Studying how Gravity Affects Antimatter

Guest_Jim_* - May 3, 2013 09:18AM in Science & Technology

They say opposites attract, and electromagnetically, this is true, but what about gravitationally? For many years, researchers have been wondering if antimatter, the electromagnetic opposite of normal matter, falls up or down in a gravitational field. Now researchers at Berkeley Lab are examining their data for 434 anti-hydrogen atoms to answers the question.

Antimatter is a source of many questions concerning the entire Universe as theoretically the Big Bang that produced all normal matter should have produced equal parts antimatter. Obviously this is not the case because normal matter remains today. Since realizing this inconsistency, researchers have been trying to find all the differences between antimatter and normal matter, including the direction the particles move in a gravitational field. Watching atoms fall is not easy though, but the Berkeley Lab researchers realized they could use the magnetic traps holding the anti-atoms to make some measurements. Within a magnetic trap, magnetic fields will counteract gravity and hold the particles up, but once the fields are switched off, they will be free to move, and they can be detected when they strike the walls of the trap.

While this approach is very promising, the data was not very revealing. All it really demonstrated was that this approach could work, but the equipment and experiment needs some upgrades before the uncertainty is small enough to know for certain.

Source: Berkeley Lab