Auburn’s Robicheaux part of antimatter research team featured in journal Nature Physics

AUBURN – Auburn University physics professor Francis Robicheaux is part of an international team of scientists, known as ALPHA, who made a scientific breakthrough last year by trapping and holding the antimatter version of the hydrogen atom. An article published in the June edition of the journal Nature Physics provides updated results of progress made in that research.

When the discovery was initially announced, the team had captured 38 atoms of antihydrogen, storing each for a mere sixth of a second. Since then, ALPHA has made significant progress by trapping 309 antihydrogen atoms, with some held for as long as 15 minutes. As a result of the longer holding times, the scientists are now able to work toward not only improved production of trappable anti-atoms but also the study of their dynamics.

“Trapping antihydrogen is so difficult, we were excited about our first results that convinced us and our physics colleagues around the world that we had actually done it,” Robicheaux said. “We were even more excited by the work in this new report which showed we vastly improved the production rate and were able to hold them more than 1,000 times longer than our first report.”

“Showing that we can hold the antihydrogen for more than 10 minutes and increasing the production rate vastly expands the types of experiments we will be able to perform. This makes it much more likely that we will be successful in measuring the fundamental properties of the antihydrogen atoms. The most fundamental theories of nature make specific predictions about these properties, and even the smallest discrepancies would overturn them.”

The research collaboration is headquartered at CERN, Europe’s particle-physics lab near Geneva, Switzerland. ALPHA is mainly comprised of experimentalists who designed, built and ran the experiment, including scientists from Europe, Canada, the United States, Brazil, Israel and Japan. Robicheaux serves as a theorist to the team, providing computer simulations of how mirror-trapped anti-protons might mimic anti-atom annihilations, and how actual anti-hydrogen would behave in the trap.

To read the article in Nature Physics, go to

To learn more about the ALPHA collaboration, go to

Contact: Francis Robicheaux, (334) 844-4366 (,
Candis Birchfield, (334) 844-5734 (, or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (