2 Minutes with Makoto C. Fujiwara
February 3, 2014
Canadian scientists have narrowed the gap between science-fiction and reality. In 2010 and 2011, Canadian researchers on the ALPHA research team at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, played key roles in demonstrating that it was possible to capture antimatter atoms in a magnetic bottle. Then in 2012, they developed methods that led to the first measurement of the properties of atomic antimatter.
The seamless collaboration among this multidisciplinary team, its mastery of multiple technologies, and its tight integration with the international team at CERN has earned it the prestigious 2013 NSERC's John C. Polanyi Award.
|Makoto C. Fujiwara||
We believe that our universe began with a big bang. There was an equal amount of matter and antimatter created. But if you look at the universe today, we see a very little amount of antimatter in the observable universe.
So one of the big mysteries in modern science is – what happened to antimatter in the universe?
Antimatter is a counterpart of matter, and for every matter particle, there's antimatter particles. We work in the Alpha Project, which is an international project located at CERN, which is an international laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. And at CERN we studied what is called antimatter atoms. And by studying these antimatter atoms, producing them and trapping them in a laboratory, we want to see if there's any difference in its fundamental properties, such as, do they shine in different colours, do they weigh different between the matter and antimatter?
According to fundamental laws of physics, which connect the quantum physics in Einstein's relativity, these properties of antimatter and matter have to be exactly the same.
So the Alpha Project is an international project so that groups from different countries make different contributions, depending on their expertise. From Canada, we have several expertise that are unique within Alpha, and one is a detector, a particle detector. So here at TRIUMF, we design and also build electronics for particle detectors. And in order to study antimatter particles, we had to see – we had to be able to detect it. And so we have constructed sophisticated electronics here at the TRIUMF Laboratory and then brought it to CERN.
CERN Laboratory is the only place in the world which can produce antimatter particles right now, so that's why we go there from Canada to participate in this international project.
One of the recent results that Alpha has been able to achieve is to study the internal structure of an antimatter atom for the first time. Nobody had seen what the internal structure is of antimatter atoms. And using microwave techniques developed here in Vancouver, was Professor – by Professor Hardy and Professor Hayden of UBC and SFU, we've been able to demonstrate the first microwave spectroscopy experiment on antimatter atoms.
Without NSERC support, we couldn't have done any of this research.