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China-made giant magnet helps AMS detector's hunt for anti-matter in space

05-17-2011 09:22 BJT

BEIJING, May 16 (Xinhua) -- Despite several delays, the AMS-02 particle detector took off from the Florida coast of the United States Monday to start its over-ten-year long march looking for antimatter and dark matter in space.

What is rarely known, the core component of the Alpha Magnetic
Spectrometer (AMS), the world's most advanced and sophisticated particle
detector, is a China-made giant permanent magnet.

"What is rarely known, the core component of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), the world's most advanced and sophisticated particle detector, is a China-made giant permanent magnet," Professor He-Sheng Chen, one of the AMS project's team leaders, told Xinhua.

The magnet will help to identify anti-matter from matter, which carry electrons with opposite charges.

"Chinese scientists have helped to solve a decade-long problem of sending a giant magnet into space," according to Samuel Ting, a Chinese-born American scientist and Nobel laureate who heads the 600-member multinational team that developed the AMS project, commenting during an earlier interview with Xinhua.

According to Chen, who is also the head of the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the 2.6-tonne magnet looks like a large ring. The "magic" ring has almost no magnetic flux leakage, which makes it suitable for space operations.

Chen said the giant magnet was first sent into space in 1998 as part of a ten-day AMS-01 project, a pilot flight to test its performance.

"It worked quite well in AMS-01 throughout the voyage, underwent strict tests, and scientists finally decided to continue to use it for the much-longer AMS-02 mission," said Chen.

Three Chinese research institutes, the CAS's Institute of Electrical Engineering and the IHEP, as well as the Chinese Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), participated in the research, design and manufacturing of the permanent magnet and its supporting structures in the AMS project.

The AMS-02 is being transported by the U.S. Space Shuttle Endeavor on its final mission.

Physicists have observed that matter and anti-matter behave in an almost identical way. Each matter particle has an equivalent anti-particle that is very similar, but with opposite charges.

Matter and anti-matter would have been created in equal amounts during the Big Bang, according to scientists.

One of the main challenges of the AMS project is to address the question of whether there is a preference for matter over anti-matter in nature.

The project will search for signals given off by large amounts of anti-matter in the Universe.

Chinese scientists were among the first group of participants in the AMS project since its start in 1994.

Related:

Chinese scientists playing a crucial role in designing core parts of AMS

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 (AMS) particle detector, mankind's most ambitious effort to date to explore the universe' origin, kicked off its long-awaited mission Monday, with Chinese scientists playing a crucial role in designing and manufacturing some core parts of the device. Full Story>>

What is Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02)?

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) is a state-of-the-art particle physics detector designed to operate as an external module on the International Space Station. It will use the unique environment of space to study the universe and its origin by searching for antimatter, dark matter while performing precision measurements of cosmic rays composition and flux. The AMS-02 observations will help answering fundamental questions, such as "What makes up the universe's invisible mass?" or "What did happen to the primordial antimatter?"

Editor:Zhang Ning |Source: Xinhua

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