The AEgIS experiment at CERN intends to form antihydrogen atoms and launch them on a horizontal trajectory to subject them to gravity, in order to perform the first-ever measurement of the gravitational interaction between matter and antimatter. While antimatter is expected to behave gravitationally just like matter, this novel test of Einstein's Weak Equivalence Principle carries the potential for surprises, e.g. an extension of our understanding of gravity and/or the absence of antimatter in the Universe since the Big Bang.
The (essentially complete) apparatus is charge symmetric, and will be commissioned by first forming and launching hydrogen atoms (in 2014) before attempting the same with antihydrogen (in 2015). Maximizing the produced flux of antihydrogen atoms is essential and requires advances in nano-structured materials, laser physics, positron and positronium manipulation and ultra-cold charged plasmas, among with many others. Building the interdisciplinary expertise and diagnostic tools is predicated on the long-term presence of master and PhD students from across the world and from the participating groups at the experiment, their interactions and their supervision by experts in the respective fields.
Financial support for students forms the bulk of the funding request. Outcomes include valuable expertise and training for them, technical developments in interdisciplinary areas, and more concretely characterizations of different nano-patterend materials, the possibility of manipulating excited positronium atoms, and of trapping and studying positronium and antihydrogen atoms.
Furthermore, the students will form the heart of a recently started concerted effort to involve the public in the scientific process, by helping to analyze our experimental data. Students will thus hone their skills in communication and in explaining complex systems clearly, succinctly and intelligibly, while the public will directly participate in fundamental research.