CERN Accelerating science

Antimatter research boosted by EU funding
by Alexandra Welsch

In 1928, British physicist Paul Dirac wrote down an equation that combined quantum theory and special relativity to describe the behaviour of an electron moving at a relativistic speed. The equation posed a problem as it could have two solutions: One for an electron with positive energy, and one for an electron with negative energy.

Today we know that for every particle that exists, so does a corresponding antiparticle, exactly matching the particle but with opposite charge. When matter and antimatter come into contact, they annihilate each other – disappearing in a flash of energy. In theory, the big bang should have created equal amounts of matter and antimatter. So why is there far more matter than antimatter in the universe?


The AVA project logo

This question and a number of other equally fundamental questions about the laws of nature are being addressed at CERN’s unique Antiproton Decelerator facility. Efforts to answer these questions, the Accelerators Validating Antimatter (AVA) project was created and has been selected for funding by the European Union.

Professor Carsten Welsch, Head of the University of Liverpool’s Department of Physics who is based at the Cockcroft Institute and coordinator of AVA, said: “Antimatter experiments are at the cutting edge of science, but they are very difficult to realize. This year the new Extra Low Energy Antiproton ring (ELENA) is being commissioned at CERN and will be a critical upgrade to the unique AD facility. In addition, there are also exciting long-term prospects through opportunities a future low energy antimatter facility might provide as part of the FAIR research centre in Germany.”

A gas jet experiment. (Image courtesy of University of Liverpool/Cockcroft Institute)

AVA is an Innovative Training Network within the H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions which will enable an interdisciplinary and cross-sector program on antimatter research. The network comprises a lot of the European expertise in this research area, and joins five universities, eight national and international research centers, and 13 industry partners.

Within AVA, the project partners will carry out research across three scientific work packages. These cover facility design and optimization, advanced beam diagnostics and novel low energy antimatter experiments. A total of 15 Fellows will be recruited and become part of larger scientific teams. A structured combination of local and network-wide trainings will also be offered within AVA. This includes hands-on training on accelerator facilities, as well as an international training programme consisting of Schools, Topical Workshops and Conferences that will be open to all Fellows, as well as the wider scientific community.

The network will recruit its Fellows for start in spring/summer 2017. The deadline for applications is 31st January 2017. More information about the project can be found on the project home page:


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 721559.