CERNが反物質の特性を精密に測定!

反物質の測定の快挙

日本などの研究者が参加する欧州合同原子核研究機関(CERN(セルン))の国際研究チームは、反水素原子の性質を精密に測定することに成功したと発表ました。19日付の英科学誌ネイチャーに論文が掲載されます!測定の結果、普通の水素と同じエネルギー準位を持っており、標準理論などで予想されていた結果となってました!初めて反物質の特性を測定できたことになります!

これの何がすごいのか、解説します!CERNの解説もとに書きました。
リンク(https://home.cern/about/updates/2016/12/alpha-observes-light-spectrum-antimatter-first-time)

 

反物質とは?

反物質(はんぶっしつ、英: antimatter)は、質量とスピンが全く同じで、構成する素粒子の電荷などが全く逆の性質を持つ反粒子によって組成される物質のことです。例えば、電子はマイナスの電荷を持つが、反電子(陽電子)はプラスの電荷を持ちます。中性子と反中性子は電荷を持たないが、中性子はクォーク、反中性子は反クォークから構成されています。

宇宙の誕生時、物質と反物質は同数生まれた考えられてます。しかし現在の宇宙には普通の物質が大量にあり、反物質はほとんど存在しません。なぜ、この宇宙に反物質がほとんど存在しないのかは?いったいどこに行ってしまったのか?「消えた反物質」は物理学の謎であり、宇宙誕生を知るカギとなる重要な秘密となっています。反物質は、そもそもほとんど存在しないということと、普通の物質と反物質が触れると、莫大なエネルギーを発生して消滅してしまいます (質量がエネルギーに変換される)。そのため、反物質の特性を検証することが不可能でした。

原子の特性を調べる

水素原子は、陽子の周りを電子がまわっている構造を取っています。原子は決まった軌道しか回ることができないことが量子力学で導かれています。ある軌道からある軌道に電子が移動したとき、水素原子は光を出したり吸収したりします。そのときに発生する光は、原子固有の波長となっています。つまり、原子から出る光の波長を調べると、どういう原子で構成されているのかわかるのです。例えば遠く離れた恒星の光を調べると、恒星が何の元素からできて調べることができます。

反水素原子は反陽子と反電子からできています。反水素原子から発生する光の波長を調べると、反水素原子の特徴を詳しく理解することができます。そのために、まずは反水素原子を捕まえることが重要でした。

反水素原子を捕まえる

反粒子を捕まえるためにはどうしたらいいでしょうか?仮に、箱のようなものに入れたとしたら、箱と接触した瞬間に、反粒子と粒子が結合して消滅してしまいます。捕まえるためには、真空で空中に浮かせた状態で捕まえないといけません。

反電子や、反陽子は電荷をもっているため、電場をかけると比較的簡単に捕まえることができます。一方で、反水素は電荷をもっていないため捕まえるのは容易ではありませんでした。そのため、「designed a very special magnetic trap」~とても特別な磁場トラップで捕まえたと書いています(物理屋向け補足:BEC(Bose–Einstein condensate)をトラップするように、レーザーで冷却しつつ、原子のSpinを利用して反水素原子をTrapしていると予想…アルカリ原子なので、超微細構造を利用してコントロールするのは比較的容易と思われる。。Scienceの論文見れないので謎ですが。)

反水素原子のエネルギー準位は?

トラップするのが並大抵でなく困難だった模様で、これだけに数年かかっていると思われる。。トラップできた後は、その反水素原子の放出する光の波長を観測すれば電子のエネルギー準位がわかり、反水素原子の特徴がわかる。

調べた結果によると、測定精度の範囲で水素原子と一致したとのこと。これは素粒子の標準理論と一致しており、現代科学の最先端理論を裏付ける非常に重要な結果となった!!!(このスペクトルが一致するかどうか、ドキドキしながら原文を読んだ!)

今後の研究についての予想

反物質は、この宇宙にほとんど存在してなく、通常の物質に触れた瞬間消滅してしまうためほとんど特性がわかっていない。そのため、この宇宙になぜ反物質がないのかなど、今の科学ではよくわかっていない。反物質が存在していないことの要因として、CP対称性の破れが関係していると予想されているが、検証されていない。今後、トラップされた反水素原子をいろいろ調査することで、宇宙に反物質がないことの手がかりが見つかることを期待して、わくわくしてます!!!

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