Generating Matter and Antimatter from Nothing
Under just the right conditions — which involve an ultra-high-intensity laser beam and a two-mile-long particle accelerator — it could be possible to create something out of nothing, according to University of Michigan researchers.
The scientists and engineers have developed new equations that show how a high-energy electron beam combined with an intense laser pulse could rip apart a vacuum into its fundamental matter and antimatter components, and set off a cascade of events that generates additional pairs of particles and antiparticles.
“We can now calculate how, from a single electron, several hundred particles can be produced. We believe this happens in nature near pulsars and neutron stars,” said Igor Sokolov, an engineering research scientist who conducted this research along with associate research scientist John Nees, emeritus electrical engineering professor Gerard Mourou and their colleagues in France.
At the heart of this work is the idea that a vacuum is not exactly nothing.
“It is better to say, following theoretical physicist Paul Dirac, that a vacuum, or nothing, is the combination of matter and antimatter — particles and antiparticles.Their density is tremendous, but we cannot perceive any of them because their observable effects entirely cancel each other out,” Sokolov said.
Matter and antimatter destroy each other when they come into contact under normal conditions.