Atoms of Anti-matter Trapped for First Time

Wednesday - 12/1/2010, 11:45am EST

For the first time ever, researchers have been able to trap and store atoms of antimatter.

Trapping the antimatter proved to be much more difficult than creating it for an international team of scientists called ALPHA.

The atoms consist of a single negatively charged antiproton orbited by a single positively charged electron. While the number of trapped anti-atoms would be far too small to fuel a starship's reactor, the advance brings us closer to the day when scientists may be able to make tests that reveal how the physics of antimatter differs from that of the ordinary matter.

The ALPHA team routinely makes antihydrogen atoms, but most are too 'hot' - or, too energetic - to be trapped. They succeeded by using a specially designed magnetic bottle that keeps the antimatter away from the walls of the trap, where they would be destroyed.