We all have seen and read about how a hero of some fantastic film or book flies on a spaceship using antimatter as fuel, and then lands on another hostile planet, takes out his blaster with charges of antimatter and … What happens next – you yourself know very well. Unfortunately, reality has not yet grown to such a cosmic romance. No, scientists have long discovered antimatter and even conduct its research, but the only place where it happens is the dungeons of laboratories.
The bottom line is that the antimatter obtained has never left the walls of this or that laboratory where it was manufactured. If it is received, then they are examined immediately on the spot. But, it seems, science is finally ripe for the transition to a new level. The researchers plan to transport the obtained antimatter for the first time in history from one laboratory to another, using as a transport a special car equipped with appropriate equipment for transportation.
In our case, the Antiproton Decelerator is used as the “A” point, where antimatter will be obtained, and the “B” point will be the ISOLDE installation, where the antimatter will be used to obtain isotopes, nuclei of atoms with a larger number of neutrons. Later they will be collided with normal atoms. Both facilities are owned by CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). The laboratories in which the installations are located are separated by only a couple of hundred meters. But how complex are these several hundred meters!
Of course, it would be much easier and safer to produce a large number of finished isotope nuclei on the site where antimatter is obtained and then transport them to the experimental site, but the problem is that such isotope nuclei are very short-lived, so they need to be “cooked” immediately before the very beginning of their further use.
“There is a task: to deliver antiprotons to the place where the nuclei of the necessary isotopes will be produced. We are going to produce a whole cloud of antiprotons in the amount of about a billion, cool it to 4 degrees Celsius above absolute zero, and then transport it from Antiproton Decelerator to ISOLDE, “explained Obertelli, one of the antiProton Unstable Matter Annihilation (PUMA) project scientists.
At first glance it may seem that 1 billion is a lot. But actually it is not. For example, in the same gram of hydrogen contains 622 sextillions of protons, which is a hundred trillion times more than the number of antiprotons that are going to be transported from place to place. But wait, we’re talking about antimatter! On matter, more precisely antimatter, a very dangerous substance, capable of destroying all life! Scientists hasten to calm down: even if something happens and the antiprotons annihilate, after coming into contact with ordinary matter, the energy will be released less than one joule, which is enough to lift the weight of, say, an apple to a height of twenty centimeters. Therefore, in this case, the main problem is more likely to protect the antimatter itself, as well as carriers from secondary radiation.
To create a special trap in which antimatter will be transported, scientists are going to by 2022. If it shows its effectiveness, then in the future, scientists can begin to transport antimatter between even more distant laboratories.
“From a technical point of view, this is a very complex project. Nevertheless, given the development of modern technologies, it is still feasible, “commented the scientist-physicist Chloe Mulbruno.