Russian physicists have found a way to turn light into antimatter

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Laser Z-Machine

The theory of quantum electrodynamics describes the process of separating from the vacuum “virtual” electron-positron pairs – if the medium is influenced by a powerful electric field, they will move to a different state and manifest themselves in our real world. At the Institute of Applied Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, it is proposed to use for this purpose a high-power laser, that is, to use ordinary light as a source of energy.

The authors of the idea are Evgeny Nerush and Igor Kostyukov, who are experimenting with a laser with a capacity of one million terawatts, exposing them to thin sheets of foil. They expected to see the usual abundance of gamma rays and photons, but calculations showed that a lot of positrons will be released when a light collides with a metal. This is antimatter, in the simplest form.

In quantum theory, there is the concept of a “quantum-electrodynamic cascade”. Inside the foil sheet there is an excess of free electrons that, when in contact with the laser beam, accelerate and begin to emit photons. Those, in turn, immediately fall into electron-positron pairs and the process repeats again, and again. As a result, the laser irradiated area is filled with positrons in an amount sufficient to work with them, and not only to record the fact of presence.

Kostyukov and Nerush calculated that the positron distribution will take the form of a spiral, which will allow predicting where and how many antimatter particles will appear. This is the key to its substantive study and practical application – so far everything remains at the level of calculations, but not far off is the day when Russian physicists will go on to practice antimatter production .

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