Albert Einstein’s most famous equation, E = mc2, used in the theory of general relativity, has been used to create matter from light, scientists have said in a new study.
Researchers from New York’s Brookhaven National Laboratory used the Department of Energy’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), ordinarily used for nuclear physics research, to speed up two gold ions that are positively charged, in a loop.
Albert Einstein’s E = mc2 equation has been used to create matter from light
They then accelerated the ions to 99.995 percent the speed of light in two accelerator rings in a near collision, with the ions carrying an electromagnetic field inside of them that shows off ‘virtual’ photons.
The speed of light in a vacuum is 299,792,458 meters (186,282 miles) per second.
‘If the speed is high enough, the strength of the circular magnetic field can be equal to the strength of the perpendicular electric field,’ Brookhaven Lab physicist Zhangbu Xu said in a statement.
The arrangement of the electrical field and the magnetic field allows for the creation of a photon, effectively a ‘particle’ of light.
‘So, when the ions are moving close to the speed of light, there are a bunch of photons surrounding the gold nucleus, traveling with it like a cloud,’ Xu added.
Researchers sped up two gold ions that are positively charged, in a loop using the Department of Energy’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (pictured). The ions were accelerated to 99.995% the speed of light, put into near collision, with the ions carrying an electromagnetic field to show off ‘virtual’ photons
An ion is an atom that does not have an equal number of protons and electrons. Matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume.
The creation essentially confirms what physicists Gregory Breit and John A. Wheeler tried to describe when discussing the collision of light particles to create pairs of electrons and positrons, in 1934.
‘In their paper, Breit and Wheeler already realized this is almost impossible to do,’ Xu explained.
‘Lasers didn’t even exist yet! But Breit and Wheeler proposed an alternative: accelerating heavy ions. And their alternative is exactly what we are doing at RHIC.’
According to LiveScience, the creation of matter has been one of the most difficult to observe because the photons need to be gamma rays and humanity can not yet produce gamma ray lasers.
After two real particles smack into each other, the products that are created as a result are produced at different angles than if they were made by virtual particles.
The arrangement of the electrical field and the magnetic field allows for the creation of a photon, effectively a ‘particle’ of light
E = mc² EXPLAINED
E = mc² — the mass–energy equivalence formula — details the relationship between mass and energy of a system at rest.
It describes the energy (E) of a particle as a product of its mass (m) and the square of the speed of light (c).
The speed of light is an enormous number in everyday units, being 299 792 458 metres per second.
Given this, the formula shows how a small amount of mass at rest is equal to a massive amount of energy.
This accounts, for example, for the phenomenal amounts of energy that can be released by nuclear reactions, which convert tiny amounts of mass into energy.
E = mc² was derived by Albert Einstein as a result of his work on special relativity.
This explained how space and time are linked for non-accelerating objects.
However, the angles of what was created by the virtual particles was the same, allowing them to verify what they created was real.
‘When we look at the products produced by photon-photon interactions at RHIC, we see that the angular distribution of the products depends on the angle of the polarization of the light. This indicates that the absorption (or passing) of light depends on its polarization,’ Yang said.
‘Our results provide clear evidence of direct, one-step creation of matter-antimatter pairs from collisions of light as originally predicted by Breit and Wheeler,’ Brandenburg said.
‘Thanks to RHIC’s high-energy heavy ion beam and the STAR detector’s large acceptance and precision measurements, we are able to analyze all the kinematic distributions with high statistics to determine that the experimental results are indeed consistent with real photon collisions.’
So-called virtual photons only come into play briefly, when there is a disturbance in the field of a real photon.
They have different amounts of mass (virtual photons do, whereas real photons do not) and when the scientists zipped them around the accelerator rings, there was a collision, essentially creating an electron-positron pair, or effectively, matter, as described by Einstein’s E=mc2 equation.
‘We also measured all the energy, mass distributions, and quantum numbers of the systems. They are consistent with theory calculations for what would happen with real photons,’ said Daniel Brandenburg, Goldhaber Fellow at Brookhaven Lab, who analyzed the STAR data on this discovery.
The researchers analyzed more than 6,000 pairs of electrons and electrons performing glancing particle collisions to confirm the results.
When scientists zipped the photons around the accelerator rings, there was a collision, creating an electron-positron pair, or effectively, matter. The researchers analyzed more than 6,000 pairs of electrons and electrons performing glancing particle collisions to confirm the results
It’s the first experimental observation based on Earth that polarization affects the interaction of light in a vacuum, something that predicted in 1936 by the Breit-Wheeler process, more than 80 years ago
It’s the first experimental observation based on Earth that polarization affects the interaction of light in a vacuum, something that predicted in 1936 by the Breit-Wheeler process, more than 80 years ago.
‘Both of these findings build on predictions made by some of the great physicists in the early 20th century,’ said Frank Geurts, a professor at Rice University, in the statement.
‘They are based on fundamental measurements made possible only recently with the technologies and analysis techniques we have developed at RHIC.’
The study was published last month in the Journal Physical Review Letters.
EINSTEIN’S THEORY OF RELATIVITY
In 1905, Albert Einstein determined that the laws of physics are the same for all non-accelerating observers, and that the speed of light in a vacuum was independent of the motion of all observers
This is known as the theory of special relativity.
This ground-breaking work introduced a new framework for all of physics, and proposed new concepts of space and time.
Einstein then spent 10 years trying to include acceleration in the theory, finally publishing his theory of general relativity in 1915.
This determined that massive objects cause a distortion in space-time, which is felt as gravity.
At its simplest, it can be thought of as a giant rubber sheet with a bowling ball in the centre.
As the ball warps the sheet, a planet bends the fabric of space-time, creating the force that we feel as gravity.
Any object that comes near to the body falls towards it because of the effect.
Einstein predicted that if two massive bodies came together it would create such a huge ripple in space time that it should be detectable on Earth.
It was most recently demonstrated in the hit film film Interstellar.
In a segment that saw the crew visit a planet which fell within the gravitational grasp of a huge black hole, the event caused time to slow down massively.
Crew members on the planet barely aged while those on the ship were decades older on their return.