New Photon-Photon Collider Revolutionizes Making Matter from Light in Lab Conditions

photonEver since the days of Star Trek, the idea of a making matter or something out of nothing has been a dream many scientists cherished and now they say it is possible in the next 12 months if the new collider in London works out successfully.

Way back in 1934, Gregory Breit and John Wheeler theorised — If you smashed two photons — light particles — together at high speed, the collision would create an electron and a positron (equivalent to antimatter) and now their theory, simple but remained difficult to prove, will enter the phase of reality in a laboratory setting.

Three physicists at the Imperial College of London have figured out that the 80-year-old theory can be proved.

Lead researcher Oliver Pike said the team has devised a machine called the “photon-photon collider” which could use the existing technologies to create matter from light, one of the most striking predictions of quantum electrodynamics.

Experimental signatures of this have been reported in the scattering of ultra-relativistic electron beams with laser beams, intense laser–plasma interactions and laser-driven solid target scattering. However, all such routes involve massive particles. The simplest mechanism by which pure light can be transformed into matter, Breit–Wheeler pair production (γγ′ right arrow e+e−), has never been observed in the laboratory.

Here, the team has presented the design of a new class of photon–photon collider in which a gamma-ray beam is fired into the high-temperature radiation field of a laser-heated hohlraum. Matching experimental parameters to current-generation facilities, Monte Carlo simulations suggest that this scheme is capable of producing in the order of 105 Breit–Wheeler pairs in a single shot.

This would provide the first realization of a pure photon–photon collider, representing the advent of a new type of high-energy physics experiment.

“Despite all physicists accepting the theory to be true, when Breit and Wheeler first proposed the theory, they said that they never expected it be shown in the laboratory,” said Physics Professor Steven Rose. “Today, nearly 80 years later, we prove them wrong.”

The team plans to set up and conduct the experiment within a year said lead researcher Pike. “We were able to develop the idea for the collider very quickly, but the experimental design we propose can be carried out with relative ease and with existing technology. Within a few hours of looking for applications of hohlraums outside their traditional role in fusion energy research, we were astonished to find they provided the perfect conditions for creating a photon collider. The race to carry out and complete the experiment is on.”

The team’s research article was published in the current journal ‘Nature Photonics’.

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