Manufacturing Bits: Aug. 22

Weighing protons; measuring antihydrogens.


Weighing protons
The Max Planck Institute and Riken have conducted the world’s most precise measurement of the mass of a proton.

Based on an experiment, researchers determined that the mass of a proton is 1.007276466583(15)(29) atomic mass units. This is three times more precise than the previous measurements from others. The numbers in parentheses refer to the statistical and systematic uncertainties, respectively, according to researchers.

Basically, neutrons and protons are sub-atomic particles. They make up the nucleus of an atom. They reside at the center of the atom. Electrons orbit the nucleus. Both neutrons and protons affect how electrons move around the atomic nucleus.

Meanwhile, after producing protons, researchers from Max Planck and Riken placed them into a magnetic device, dubbed a Penning trap. In this device, the particles can be stored for periods of more than a year. A Penning trap system uses single particle detectors.

With the system, researchers determined that the mass of a proton is smaller than the current standard value. In fact, others have measured the proton, many of which show different measurements. “Our result contributes to solving this puzzle, since it corrects the proton’s mass in the proper direction,” said Klaus Blaum from the Max Planck Institute, on Rikin’s Website.

Florian Köhler-Langes of the Max Planck Institute, added: “In the future, we will store a third ion in our trap tower. By simultaneously measuring the motion of this reference ion, we will be able to eliminate the uncertainty originating from fluctuations of the magnetic field.”

Measuring antihydrogens
CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, has observed and measured the hyperfine spectrum of antihydrogen.

The results will provide an insight into matter and antimatter. Antihydrogen is the antimatter version of hydrogen. A hydrogen atom consists of an electron and proton. In contrast, antihydrogen atoms are made of antiprotons and positrons. Antimatter itself is a material composed of antiparticles, according to Wikipedia. Antimatter has the same mass as particles of ordinary matter, but it has an opposite charge, according to Wikipedia.

At CERN, researchers have been studying the properties of antihydrogen under the so-called ALPHA experiment. For this experiment, CERN used a machine called the Antiproton Decelerator, a machine that produces low-energy antiprotons. The system is used to study antimatter.

Alpha Experiment (Image: CERN)

With the system, researchers have been able to trap antiatoms, roughly up to 74 at a time. Then, CERN conducted spectroscopy measurements on the antihydrogen atoms. Researchers probed the responses of antihydrogen over a range of frequencies.

The data showed a signature of two transitions. From there, CERN obtained measurements of the hyperfine splitting effect. Using 194 detected atoms, researchers determine a splitting at 1,420.4 ± 0.5 megahertz.

“Spectroscopy is a very important tool in all areas of physics. We are now entering a new era as we extend spectroscopy to antimatter,” said Jeffrey Hangst from the ALPHA experiment on CERN’s Web site. “With our unique techniques, we are now able to observe the detailed structure of antimatter atoms in hours rather than weeks, something we could not even imagine a few years ago.”

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