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Antimatter

Antimatter

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Published by: sonirocks on May 03, 2010
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07/26/2010

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Antimatter
In 1930, Paul Dirac developed the first description of the electron that was consistentwith both quantum mechanics and special relativity. One of the remarkable predictions of this theory was that an anti-particle of the electron should exist. This antielectron would be expected to have the same mass as the electron, but opposite electric charge andmagnetic moment. In 1932, Carl Anderson, was examining tracks produced by cosmicrays in a cloud chamber. One particle made a track like an electron, but the curvature of its path in the magnetic field showed that it was positively charged. He named this positive electron a positron. We know that the particle Anderson detected was the anti-electron predicted by Dirac. In the 1950's, physicists at the Lawrence RadiationLaboratory used the Bevatron accelerator to produce the anti-proton, that is a particlewith the same mass and spin as the proton, but with negative charge and oppositemagnetic moment to that of the proton. In order to create the anti-proton, protons wereaccelerated to very high energy and then smashed into a target containing other protons.Occasionally, the energy brought into the collision would produce a proton-antiproton pair in addition to the original two protons. This result gave credibility to the idea that for every particle there is a corresponding antiparticle.A particle and its antimatter particle annihilate when they meet: they disappear and their kinetic plus rest-mass energy is converted into other particles (E = mc
2
). For example,when an electron and a positron annihilate at rest, two gamma rays, each with energy 511keV, are produced. These gamma rays go off in opposite directions because both energyand momentum must be conserved. The annihilation of positrons and electrons is the basis of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) discussed in the section on Applications(Chapter 14). When a proton and an antiproton annihilate at rest, other particles areusually produced, but the total kinetic plus rest mass energies of these products adds up totwice the rest mass energy of the proton (2 x 938 MeV).Antimatter is also produced in some radioactive decays. When
14
C decays, a neutrondecays to a proton plus an electron and an electron antineutrino, . When
19
 Ne decays, a proton decays to a neutron plus a positron, e
+
, and an electron neutrino, .
14
C -->
14
 N + e
-
+
19
 Ne -->
19
F + e
+
+The neutrino and electron are leptons while the antineutrino and positron are anti-leptons.Leptons are point-like particles that interact with the electromagnetic, weak andgravitational interaction, but not the strong interaction. An antilepton is an antiparticle. Ineach reaction, one lepton and one antilepton is produced. These processes show afundamental law of physics - that for each new lepton that is produced there is acorresponding new antilepton.

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