Confinement of antihydrogen for 1,000 seconds

Atoms made of a particle and an antiparticle are unstable, usually surviving less than a microsecond. Antihydrogen, made entirely of antiparticles, is believed to be stable, and it is this longevity that holds the promise of precision studies of matter–antimatter symmetry. We have recently demonstrated trapping of antihydrogen atoms by releasing them after a confinement time of 172ms. A critical question for future studies is: how long can anti-atoms be trapped? Here, we report the observation of anti-atom confinement for 1,000s, extending our earlier results by nearly four orders of magnitude. Our calculations indicate that most of the trapped anti-atoms reach the ground state. Further, we report the first measurement of the energy distribution of trapped antihydrogen, which, coupled with detailed comparisons with simulations, provides a key tool for the systematic investigation of trapping dynamics. These advances open up a range of experimental possibilities, including precision studies of charge–parity–time reversal symmetry and cooling to temperatures where gravitational effects could become apparent.

G. B. Andresen, M. D. Ashkezari, M. Baquero-Ruiz, W. Bertsche, P. D. Bowe, E. Butler, C. L. Cesar, M. Charlton, A. Deller, S. Eriksson, J. Fajans, T. Friesen, M. C. Fujiwara, D. R. Gill, A. Gutierrez, J. S. Hangst, W. N. Hardy, R. S. Hayano, M. E. Hayden, A. J. Humphries, R. Hydomako, S. Jonsell, S. L. Kemp, L. Kurchaninov, N. Madsen, S. Menary, P. Nolan, K. Olchanski, A. Olin, P. Pusa, C. Ø. Rasmussen, F. Robicheaux, E. Sarid, D. M. Silveira, C. So, J. W. Storey, R. I. Thompson, D. P. van der Werf, J. S. Wurtele & Y. Yamazaki (ALPHA), Nature Physics, 7, 558 (2011)