Antimatter and Matter May Act the Same Way with Protons

First Posted: Nov 04, 2015 03:09 PM EST

Scientists have learned a little more about antimatter and, in consequence, the universe. Researchers have found that the attractive force between antiprotons is similar to that between protons.

The researchers measured two important parameters in their latest experiment: the scattering length and the effective range of interaction between two antiprotons. This, in particular, gave scientists a fundamental new way to understand the force that holds together the nuclei in antimatter and how this compares to matter.

"This is about the subtle difference in the way matter and antimatter interact with each other," said Frank Geurts, one of the researchers, in a news release.

Antiprotons carry the opposite electrical charge and spin that protons do. Like all matter and antimatter, both were created at the instant of the Big Bang. However, scientists are still trying to understand why they see so few antiparticles in nature even though particles and antiparticles were produced in equal amounts and annihilate each other on contact.

"It could have been that antimatter didn't have the same attractive force as matter and would have helped explain how these differences, during the initial part of the Big Bang, might have resulted in antimatter not having survived in the shape of stars and planets like matter did," said Geurts. "That's where this research is helpful. The interactions between two antimatter particles turn out to be quite similar to matter particles. It may not give us a solution to the bigger problem, but we most definitely removed one option."

The researchers found that for antiprotons, the scattering length was about 7.41 femtometers, and the effective range was 2.14 femtometers. That's nearly equivalent to their proton counterparts.

The findings quantify what researchers have thought for years. This may reveal a bit more about antimatter and set scientists on the road for further discovery.

The findings are published in the journal Nature.

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