Antiparticles and antimatter have progressed from theory and science fiction to become an important and exciting area of pure and applied science. This fundamental atomic physics project will investigate how antimatter and matter interact by experimentally studying the interaction of positrons (the electron anti-particle) with trapped ultracold rubidium atoms.
This will require the construction of an ultracold rubidium Magneto-Optic Trap (MOT), which will use laser cooling and magnetic trapping to produce trapped clouds of rubidium atoms at sub-miliKelvin temperatures. These rubidium atoms will form the scattering target for a beam of cold positrons, sourced from a positron beamline, with detection of the various collision products being achieved using electron multipliers, gamma-ray scintillators and absorption imaging.
The scientific aims of the project will be to measure a number of fundamental interaction parameters for positron-rubidium collisions, including cross-sections, ionisation of rubidium and positronium formation, which is a bound state where an electron and a positron combine to form a short lived exotic atom. Technically, the project will involve a lot of hands on experimental work with laser systems, precise electronics, ultra-high vacuum systems, among other techniques.