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Positronium: Laser Cooling


Prelims: Science & Tech (Scientific Phenomenon), Positronium, AEgIS Experiment ,CERN

Mains: General Studies-III  Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-technology, Bio-technology and issues relating to Intellectual Property Rights.

Why in the News ?

An international team of physicists from the Anti-hydrogen Experiment: Gravity, Interferometry, Spectroscopy (AEgIS) collaboration has recently achieved a breakthrough by demonstrating the laser cooling of Positronium.

Source: IE 

📌 FYI on Prelims:

CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research)

  • European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) is the world’s largest nuclear and particle physics laboratory and best known as operator of the Large Hadron Collider, which found the elusive Higgs boson in 2012.
  • CERN is based in Geneva on the French-Swiss border. It has 22 member states.
  • India in 2016 became an associate member of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN).
  • Indian scientists have played a significant role in the A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE) and Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS)  experiments that led to the discovery of the Higgs Boson.


  • Positronium:

      • It is a fundamental atomic system that comprises a bound electron (e-) and positron (e+).
      • Mass: Its mass is twice the electron mass and enjoys the unique distinction of being a pure leptonic atom.
      • Half life: Due to its very short life, it annihilates with a half life of 142 nano-seconds.
      • Significance: This hydrogen-like system, with halved frequencies for excitation, makes it useful for attempting laser cooling.
      • This can help in performing tests of fundamental theories in physics.
  • AEgIS Experiment:

    • Antihydrogen Experiment: Gravity, Interferometry, Spectroscopy (AEgIS) is the direct measurement of the Earth’s gravitational acceleration on antihydrogen.
      AEgIS is a collaboration of physicists from a number of countries in Europe and from India. 
    • This team has achieved a breakthrough by demonstrating the laser cooling of Positronium.
  • Laser Cooling of Positronium achievement:

    • Experimentalists achieved laser cooling of Positronium atoms initially from ~380 Kelvin to ~170 Kelvin, and demonstrated the cooling in one dimension using a 70-nanosecond pulse of the alexandrite-based laser system.
    • The lasers deployed were either in the deep ultraviolet or in the infrared frequency bands
  • Significance of Laser Cooling of Positronium

    • Measurement of Earth’s gravitational acceleration: This is an important precursor experiment to the formation of anti-Hydrogen and the measurement of Earth’s gravitational acceleration on antihydrogen in the AEgIS experiment.
    • Gamma-ray laser: It could open prospects to produce a gamma-ray laser that would eventually allow researchers to look inside the atomic nucleus and have applications beyond physics.
    • Quantum Electrodynamics (QED): It will pave the way for performing spectroscopic comparisons required for the Quantum Electrodynamics (QED), the study of the light and its interaction with charged matter.
    • Bose–Einstein condensate:  It allows the production of a positronium Bose–Einstein condensate, in which all constituents occupy the same quantum state. It can be an incredible tool for both fundamental and applied research.


Prelims: PYQ/FAQ

Q. The efforts to detect the existence of Higgs boson particle have become frequent news in the recent past. What is/are the importance of discovering this particle?

  1. It will enable us to understand as to why elementary particles have mass.
  2. It will enable us in the near future to develop the technology of transferring matter from one point to another without traversing the physical space between them.
  3. It will enable us to create better fuels for nuclear fission.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

A) 1 only
B) 2 and 3 only
C) 1 and 3 only
D) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: a. 1 only


  • Understanding the Origin of Mass The Higgs boson particle is responsible for giving mass to other particles. Its discovery has helped scientists understand how elementary particles acquire mass. 
  • The Higgs boson is the final piece of the Standard Model of particle physics, which explains how particles interact with each other and make up the universe. No Technology for Transferring Matter Contrary to what is mentioned in option 2, the discovery of the Higgs boson does not enable us to develop the technology of transferring matter from one point to another without traversing the physical space between them. 
  • This is a misconception and has no scientific basis. Creating Better Fuels for Nuclear Fission The Higgs boson particle does not have any direct application in creating better fuels for nuclear fission. However, its discovery has led to the development of new technologies and innovations in the field of particle physics, which may have applications in various fields, including energy.

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