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NC State Creates Most Powerful Positron Beam Ever 214

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the there-are-four-lights dept.
eldavojohn writes "A fairly large breakthrough took place earlier this month with the most powerful man-made antimatter electron beam ever being created at North Carolina State University. Professor Hawari who worked on the project explains its benefits: 'The idea here is that if we create this intense beam of antimatter electrons — the complete opposite of the electron, basically — we can then use them in investigating and understanding the new types of materials being used in many applications.'"
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NC State Creates Most Powerful Positron Beam Ever

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  • Obligatry (Score:5, Funny)

    by Avitor (640676) on Monday October 22, 2007 @06:21PM (#21078281)
    Whatever you do, don't cross the streams...
    • ...We'll cross the streams.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by cytg.net (912690)
      "The reactor is a huge recruiting tool," Hawari said. "After they get exposure to the reactor and the facilities online at their own universities, many of them become excited about the possibility of coming to NC State for hands-on experience.""

      - excited or radient ?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by opieum (979858)
      Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't Antimatter the same crap that Star Trek says is bad. Malon Frieghters (people in hazmat suits without helmets real smart bunch there) polluted space with that stuff in Voyager, Warp Cores on starships explode when antimatter leaks and all that fun stuff and here we are making laser beams of the shit? Yep I see lots more military applications there than I do "Scientific"
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by snoyberg (787126)
        Yes, Star Trek says it's dangerous, therefore it MUST be a bad idea to investigate it...

        And anyway, as a Trekkie, I can tell you that you're completely wrong; they use "anti-matter" drives. According to Star Trek, anti-matter is just as "bad" as gasoline: if something bad happens they both blow up.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by petermgreen (876956)
        antimatter is nasty in the sense that when it hits matter it releases lots of energy. weight for weight it would make nukes look tame.

        However antimatter does not to our knowlage occour in significant quantities naturally and it isn't feasible to make enough of it to be dangerous (we have to make it from energy and I don't think the process is very efficiant).

      • by obeythefist (719316) on Monday October 22, 2007 @09:04PM (#21079799) Journal
        Nah that was Theta radiation dude. Whatever that is. Go brush up on your particle of the month. Some people here wouldn't know a chronatron from a tribble.

        Also, when do we get the stories of the police using weaponised versions of the antimatter gun on students?

        "Don't positron me bro!"
    • by jhylkema (545853)
      Why worry? Each one of us is wearing an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back.

      Mother pus bucket!

      But yes it's true, this man has no dick.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      So, I would really like to know the characteristics of this beam. Are they creating and destroying positrons with the highest flux in the world? Here at CHESS [cornell.edu], we run a beam of positrons as well as electrons in CESR with an energy of 5GeV @ 240mA. Granted they are recirculating through the ring, but the instantaneous power of this is [nearly and for effect] 1.21 GW. However, it if one were to direct this at a target, you would destroy the entire beam in nanoseconds. The sustained power would be that wh
  • by newgalactic (840363) on Monday October 22, 2007 @06:21PM (#21078285)
    So, will it make my Ironman watch run backwards? OR block out all neural activity?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by monkeyboythom (796957)

      Actually, it blocks out all positive thinking. Sheesh! Some scientist you are...

      • by pclminion (145572)
        On the other hand, NEGATIVE thinking will cause you brain to detonate with the force of a nuclear warhead. Probably better not to think at all...
    • by fractoid (1076465)

      OR block out all neural activity?
      Speaking of this, did anyone else misread the title as "NC State Creates Most Powerful Positronic Brain Ever"? Too much Asimov for me, I guess. :P
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22, 2007 @06:25PM (#21078339)
    Professor Hawari who worked on the project explains its benefits: 'The idea here is that if we create this intense beam of antimatter electrons -- the complete opposite of the electron, basically -- we can then use them in investigating and understanding the new types of materials being used in many applications.'"

    He added: " We are not quite sure how long it will take to miniaturize the technology for shark mounted applications, but we expect this to be investigated thoroughly in the future"
  • Do the news reporters talk to the scientists anymore? Or does the average joe just not care?

    Apparently outdoing some undisclosed reactor in Munich is about all they say.

    Apparently in 1985 you couldn't walk into a store and buy plutonium but perhaps in 2015 you can buy antimatter.

  • by Sneakernets (1026296) on Monday October 22, 2007 @06:28PM (#21078383) Journal
    Currently, there are approximately 25 universities across the United States with active nuclear reactors on campus


    You know, when you've read as many science fiction books as I have, this shit is a liiiitle creepy.
    • by Wilson_6500 (896824) on Monday October 22, 2007 @06:59PM (#21078701)
      You know, when you've read as many science fiction books as I have, this shit is a liiiitle creepy.

      Why? These are usually research reactors, from what I understand. They're not meant to power cities; they're not meant to run at a profit. They're meant to generate some types of isotopes for nuclear medicine students, and to give the nuclear engineers something to do.

      I've read a lot of science facts, and that's why this shit doesn't feel that creepy at all. I don't mean to single you out, of course, and there are plenty of valid security and OSHA-like concerns at pretty much any nuclear facility; the public's allergy to anything remotely involving the word "radiation," however, is something that could stand a lot of improvment. The dangers of nuclear science are more to do with mismanagement and a lazy operating culture--which are thankfully not fundamental physical issues but rather human ones that can potentially be fixed.

      And, frankly, I'd rather the public learn about nuclear science from scientists rather than science fiction authors.
      • Yeah, and with a research reactor, it's not like they should have even close to a critical mass worth of uranium or, you know, weapons grade plutonium kicking around.

        I guess if one of them screwed up badly it might be a little more dangerous than being x-rayed a few times, but don't quote me on that, I'm so not a nuclear physicist.

        Speaking of sci fi, I was reading an Arthur C Clarke novel the other day and Arthur mentions one of his characters has a uranium paperweight... huh.
        • by AJWM (19027)
          Yeah, and with a research reactor, it's not like they should have even close to a critical mass worth of uranium

          It's probably not going to work real well if they don't.

          Mind, if the U-235 is mixed with U-238, not to mention the various other elements mixed in to make the fuel assembly, it's not exactly going to be weapons grade. The other thing is that some designs (eg SLOWPOKE) make heavy use of beryllium reflectors to reduce the mass needed for criticality. (Since SLOWPOKE uses about 93% enriched uraniu
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by olddotter (638430)
      Currently, there are approximately 25 universities across the United States with active nuclear reactors on campus

      You know, when you've read as many science fiction books as I have, this shit is a liiiitle creepy.


      This isn't a little creepy. Idiocracy [netflix.com] is a bit creepy. Manna [marshallbrain.com] is a bit creepy. And this Wired story [wired.com]is down right scary and creepy. If we continue down this path, then we are well on our way to being a nation of idiots.
    • by PackMan97 (244419)
      Not really. The PULSTAR is a whopping 1MW reactor. Although, it is kinda freaky that it sits right smack in the middle of campus and that must students don't even know it's there!

      If you'd like to know more about State's NE program here is a link, http://www.ne.ncsu.edu/ [ncsu.edu]
    • by pclminion (145572)

      Currently, there are approximately 25 universities across the United States with active nuclear reactors on campus You know, when you've read as many science fiction books as I have, this shit is a liiiitle creepy.

      Reed College here in Portland has one. It never seems to be mentioned in the news, ever. I assume they are not actively using it. I've actually been inside the main reactor chamber once. Obviously it was not turned on. Very cool, fascinating, and scary at the same time.

      Ahh, Reed College. T

    • by TFer_Atvar (857303) on Monday October 22, 2007 @07:45PM (#21079179) Homepage
      Actually, there are 32. I wrote my senior thesis on this topic. That number is actually down from the late 1970s, when there were nearly 60. As a previous commenter said, they're virtually all research reactors, and most are of the TRIGA design designed by General Atomics. When the engineers and scientists went about designing it in the 1950s, they asked themselves how they could design a reactor that was completely accident-proof. Even if you wanted to melt down a TRIGA, you couldn't. Yanking every control rod fully out of the reactor will cause a spark in neutron activity before the water moderates the reaction back down. NC State had the first collegiate nuclear reactor in the United States, before even the TRIGA design. Rest assured, they know what they're doing.
    • My university is not cool enough to have a real reactor. All they got is these steam tunnels and a bunch of blue-glowing water!
    • by AJWM (19027)
      Currently, there are approximately 25 universities across the United States with active nuclear reactors on campus

      You know, when you've read as many science fiction books as I have, this shit is a liiiitle creepy.


      I'm surprised that you're surprised. Heck, I didn't know the number but I knew various universities had nukes even in the sixties when I was in grade school -- I even got to visit the University of Toronto's reactor (well, parts of it) during an open house.

      We're talking research reactors of a few
  • Reminds me of the positron rifle from the 6th episode of Evangelion [wikipedia.org].
  • by cashman73 (855518) on Monday October 22, 2007 @06:30PM (#21078397) Journal
    I for one welcome our new Tarheel Overlords! :-)

    In seemingly unrelated news, Duke University ceases to exist, somehow evaporated by a wave of unknown positron emission energy. But little seem to care, since Duke sucks anyways!

  • by Derling Whirvish (636322) on Monday October 22, 2007 @06:36PM (#21078465) Journal
    So if you shot a powerful positron beam at something and also shot a powerful electron beam at it also, would you have a continuous antimatter explosion at the crossover point?
    • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday October 22, 2007 @06:59PM (#21078695) Journal
      So if you shot a powerful positron beam at something and also shot a powerful electron beam at it also, would you have a continuous antimatter explosion at the crossover point?

      Kinda. It's more like a gamma-ray (and neutrino) light source. The electron-positron annihilation releases a tad over a MeV mainly as two photons that fly off in opposite directions - plus a neutrino, so the photons are somewhat under half the energy each.

      Think of it as an x-ray tube - without the vacuum tube - but with the power supply, instead of being in the kilovolt range, cranked up to whatever the beam voltage is plus an extra half-million volts or so.

      Also, if you have a target you don't really need the electron beam. Just ground it well enough that it doesn't accumulate enough positive voltage to deflect the positron beam to somewhere else.
      • by B3ryllium (571199)
        But with an electron beam ... you could potentially create a floating point of light?

        As in, a single pixel (individual photons ... crikey, that would be way less than a pixel :)), which could evolve to be a multipixel hologramatic display? :)
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          But with an electron beam ... you could potentially create a floating point of light?

          Naw. It would have to hit something to glow. And it wouldn't be much of a beam with an acceleration voltage in the single-digit volts needed to produce visible light when the electrons slam into something.

          As for trying to make a middle-of-the-air display by intersecting electron and positron beams: While half-MeV gamma-ray photons count as "light" they don't count as "visible light" (unless the light is really bright and
      • by BitterOak (537666)

        Kinda. It's more like a gamma-ray (and neutrino) light source. The electron-positron annihilation releases a tad over a MeV mainly as two photons that fly off in opposite directions - plus a neutrino, so the photons are somewhat under half the energy each.

        I was unaware that an e+e- interaction could produce a single neutrino along with two gammas. Can you explain how that doesn't violate lepton number conservation? Also, I was under the impression that e+e- is an electromagnetic, not a weak interaction

    • I certainly wouldnt want to be anywhere near a large positron beam hitting electrons. They don't explode... Instead you get a number of things happening:

      1) Positron + electron = 2 gamma rays/
      2) A missing electron (meaning free radical, and/or an electrical current).

      So basically, a positron destroys an electron and creates two ionizing photons.

      So think of this less as an explosion and more as a giant light-bulb spewing gamma rays. Cool, but you want to be somewhere else.

      Note that the current ideas for p
  • by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Monday October 22, 2007 @06:37PM (#21078467)
    I'd like my doctor to have one of these new fangled ray gun thingies just in case I become infected with some of that super duper bacteria I keep hearing about.
  • by master_p (608214) on Monday October 22, 2007 @06:41PM (#21078515)
    How is the beam manipulated? doesn't it cause an explosion if it touches normal particles? can it be used as a weapon? as fuel? how is the beam created?
    • by kebes (861706)

      How is the beam manipulated?

      The beam is manipulated just like an electron beam: using "magnetic optics." Since an electron has a (negative) charge, you can deflect or accelerate it using electric or magnetic fields. Magnetic coils are used in electron microscopes to focus electrons onto the sample, and then to focus the transmitted electrons onto an imagine plate (very analogous to how a light microscope works).

      Similarly, to manipulate positrons, which have a positive charge, you can use the exact same

      • by LinearBob (258695) on Monday October 22, 2007 @10:48PM (#21080569)
        The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, or SLAC, generates and accelerates electron and positron beams (and when needed, polarized or spin oriented beams) for colliding beam and fixed target experiments. SLAC has literally hundreds of dipole, quadrapole, and sextupole electromagnets placed along their accelerator, beam lines, and storage rings, all for focusing and directing their charged particle beams. If the center of mass of colliding electron and positron beams is high enough (at a collision energy called a "resonance") new particles will be created from the combined beam energies. During the 1990's, SLAC accelerated electrons and positrons to approximately 49 Giga Electron Volts (or GeV) each with their accelerator. After the two beams drifted in evacuated beam lines away from the accelerator, they were directed such that the electron beam and the positron beam approached an interaction point in the center of a large particle detector called SLD, from opposite sides. In the detector, the two beams would collide, creating new chargeless particles called Z-Zero or Z-Naught particles, with a collision energy of about 95.5 GeV. The Z-Zero, before it decays, is about one half as heavy as a silver atom, but quickly decays into a lot of smaller fragments, some charged and others not charged. The mass of that Z-Zero particle represents the direct conversion of the accelerator's energy into matter.

        http://www2.slac.stanford.edu/vvc/detectors/sld.html [stanford.edu]

        In the diagram shown in the link above, look for the e- and e+ labels. Those represent the electron (e-) and positron (e+) beams entering the SLD detector from opposite sides. In the center of the SLD detector is a small cylindrical piece called a Vertex Detector. The center of the vertex detector (a silicon CCD device about the size of a soft drink can with several million pixels in three concentric layers) is where SLAC's electrons actually collided with positrons. The parts of the detector around the Vertex detector are like the layers of an onion. Each layer gathers a different kind of data about the collisions that took place inside the vertex detector at the interaction point. There are a lot of very sophisticated electronics in the layers of all particle detectors, but all of the electronics have one purpose, to gather information about the decay fragments coming from the electron/positron collisions so the events that took place during and immediately after the collision can be reconstructed and analyzed with very sophisticated computers.

        Beginning in 1998, SLAC began an experiment called the asymmetric B-meson factory, or "B Factory" for short. In the B Factory, the electron beams run at a little over 9 GeV beam energy, while the positron beams run at only about 3 GeV. Both colliding beams run at very high currents, on the order of two amperes in the electron storage ring, and three amperes in the positron storage ring. The collision of these two high current beams produces millions of B mesons, each with a residual momentum (due to the asymmetric beam energies) that makes it possible for the particle physicists to study more effectively how those B mesons decayed.

        Here is a link to more information about "Storage Rings" and their electromagnets:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storage_ring [wikipedia.org]

        And here are links to three of SLAC's web pages, where you can learn more about colliding beam physics. BaBar is name of the particle detector used to study their decaying B Mesons, and PEP-II is the storage ring collider used to make those B Mesons.

        The PEP-II storage ring collider is at: http://www.slac.stanford.edu/grp/ad/ADPEPII/ADPEPII.html [stanford.edu]

        The BaBar detector is at: http://www-public.slac.stanford.edu/babar/ [stanford.edu]

        And SLAC's main web page (the first web page in t
        • The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, or SLAC, generates and accelerates ...

          Brilliant and informative post (used up all my mod points yesterday -- bugger!)

          One observation however deserves expansion, I believe. The object ...The center of the vertex detector (a silicon CCD device about the size of a soft drink can reminds me of how the original cloud chamber reaction detector was inspired by a glass of beer, or rather the cavitation of bubbles within the glass of beer (not that beer can't be inspring on

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by LinearBob (258695)
            Thank you for your kind remarks.

            I used to work at SLAC, and I got to know something about how the whole machine worked and what we (as a member of the team who made it work) were doing. You are 100% correct about beer and bubble chambers. At one time SLAC had a huge bubble chamber filled with liquid hydrogen (as I recall, I could be wrong). They also had a huge cloud chamber, and even a very large spark chamber, and giant solenoid magnets around those chambers, to make charged particles leave curved trac
            • Superb insight. I never got closer to it than driving above it on (think it was) Highway 280, but even that was a thrill knowing it was that close. Mostly I used to work over at that air field on the other side of the hill, writing code for a very slow network, and that took a lot of my time. Sad that I never got to see the innards of that big pipe.

              Whups, my Ubuntu download just finished, bye...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      How is the beam manipulated?

      Like an electron beam - with electric and/or magnetic fields. (But because the particles are positive you have to use the reverse of the fields you'd use on electrons.)

      doesn't it cause an explosion if it touches normal particles?

      It causes a spot of gamma-ray (and neutrino) "light" emission. Kinda like an x-ray tube with a half-million volts between the electrodes (minus the vacuum bottle).

      can it be used as a weapon?

      If you have a BIG truck to carry the swimming-pool reactor arou
    • by pclminion (145572)

      How is the beam manipulated? doesn't it cause an explosion if it touches normal particles?

      The energy of any such explosion would have to COME FROM somewhere. You aren't getting out any more than you put in. If you're causing megaton-sized explosions, that means you're using megaton-sized energy to create the positron beam. This is nowhere near that.

  • I thought in order to actually have "anti-matter" you needed whole anti-atoms. I think the proper term is simply anti-electrons. (Could be wrong in my pedanticism)
    • by clarkcox3 (194009)
      Electrons are matter, so why wouldn't anti-electrons/positrons be anti-matter?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Sigh... such a lack of precision today. Nothing anti-matters anymore.

        Yes, positrons are considered anti-matter. But you can call it what you want in your own Jeffries tubes.

    • I thought in order to actually have "anti-matter" you needed whole anti-atoms. I think the proper term is simply anti-electrons. (Could be wrong in my pedanticism)

      I seriously doubt most physicists would give a crap as long as you are consistent and it is clear what you mean. Kinda like nobody beyond high school really cares if you say that a proton is "heavier" than an electron when it is technically more accurate to say it is more massive. There's an XKCD which illustrates this kinda thing rather well: ht [xkcd.com]

    • If it makes you feel better, I was a bit surprised when I read that, too. I had never heard the term "antimatter electron", only positron or anti-electron.
  • by HaeMaker (221642) on Monday October 22, 2007 @06:49PM (#21078595) Homepage
    I've seen Scotty create beams of antimatter with two phasers and a tricorder, big whoop.
  • uh o (Score:3, Funny)

    by moogied (1175879) on Monday October 22, 2007 @06:57PM (#21078675)

    The reactor is a huge recruiting tool," Hawari said. "After they get exposure to the reactor and the facilities online at their own universities, many of them become excited"
    My god.. there making mutants.
    • by v1 (525388)
      I just narrowly dodged a "redundant" mod for catching your post after RTFA. "exposure" is not generally considered a positve outcome with respect to nuclear reactors...
  • Insert joke here about Dirty Hawari with the Most Powerful Postitron Beam in the world, and can blow a grad student's head clean off...

    I know there's a good joke here, but it's not coming to me. -sigh- Some days you have it, some days you don't. :)

  • by gordgekko (574109) on Monday October 22, 2007 @07:17PM (#21078899) Homepage
    I won't be impressed until scientists are able to create an inverted tachyon pulse that solves any problems caused by spatial anomalies.
    • They haven't been able to synchronize the phase harmonics of the polaron emitter with the subspace transients, because they mixed up a C++ template definition in the J++/Perl# interface to the holodeck safety protocols trying to document the current TSA handbook for compatibility with NAFTA copyright laws. If only they'd written it in Lisp!
  • Useless without... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by clarkcox3 (194009) <slashdot@clarkcox.com> on Monday October 22, 2007 @07:21PM (#21078955) Homepage
    OK, this article is useless without some mention of how powerful this beam is. They say that the reactor itself puts out 5MW, but nothing of the beam itself.
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      The "beam" was probably about 5 or 6 positrons in a row... well, you don't want them to blow up the world, do you?
    • OK, this article is useless without some mention of how powerful this beam is. They say that the reactor itself puts out 5MW, but nothing of the beam itself.
      The two most important questions: what do you shoot with it and how pretty is the 'splosion? Oh, third question: does it work on Angels?
  • "After they get exposure to the reactor and the facilities online at their own universities, many of them become excited about the possibility of coming to NC State for hands-on experience."

    Maybe the exposure to the reactor, is just causing their atoms to excite.

  • "'The idea here is that if we create this intense beam of antimatter electrons the complete opposite of the electron, basically we can then use them in investigating and understanding the new types of materials being used in many applications.'"

    They'd also be able to detect cloaked Romulan vessels!
  • Finally something we can use to clear the streets around the Belltower. No man I DON'T SMOKE and I DON'T have any SPARE change.
  • Wusses - this is just what I've been needing for my planet eating Doomsday Machine.

    Well, that and Neutronium.

    Pug
  • Wouldn't an anti-electron beam crossed with a particle beam create energy?
  • the beam was not 'powerful' it was intense. And then they don't even state the luminosity. Next they will write the press release in crayons.
  • What happens if you make a CRT that uses positrons instead of electrons. Will it suck up light, instead of emitting light? That'd be so cool: instant darkness!
    • by argent (18001)
      What happens if you make a CRT that uses positrons instead of electrons.

      It'll be REALLY bright. Just not for very long.

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