Positrons, or “antielectrons,” are antiparticles with the same mass as an electron, but with the opposite charge. The generation of electron-positron pairs is a common occurrence in extreme astrophysical conditions associated with the rapid collapse of stars and the formation of black holes. These vapors eventually radiate their energy, producing extremely bright bursts of gamma rays.
Gamma-ray bursts are the brightest electromagnetic phenomena that occur in the universe and can last from ten milliseconds to several minutes. The mechanism behind the formation of these gamma-ray bursts is still a mystery.
That’s where powerful lasers come in. In the laboratory, jets of electron-positron pairs can be generated by shining intense laser light on gold foil. The interaction produces radiation that travels through the material and creates electron-positron pairs as it interacts with the nuclei of gold atoms along the way.
A new review of the current breakthroughs in the creation of electron-positron pair plasmas, its main problems and the future in this field, prepared by physicist Hui Chen (Hui Chen) from the Livermore National Laboratory and scientist Frederico Fiuza (Frederico Fiuza) from the National Accelerator Laboratory, is published in the journal Physics of Plasmas.
Using even more powerful lasers, researchers at Livermore National Laboratory produced a record number of electron-positron pairs in 2015, breaking the record of previous Titan laser experiments in 2008, when Chen’s team created billions of positrons.
Chen and Fiusa explained that while the full range of conditions associated with compact astrophysical objects is not achievable in ground-based laboratories, the development of experimental platforms that would allow the study of the main collective processes associated with pair plasmas in a controlled environment is of great importance.
Source: Hui Chen et al, Perspectives on relativistic electron–positron pair plasma experiments of astrophysical relevance using high-power lasers, Physics of Plasmas (2023). DOI: 10.1063/5.0134819