AQA A Level Physics

Revision Notes

2.1.5 Particles, Antiparticles & Photons

Antimatter

  • The universe is made up of matter particles (protons, neutrons, electrons etc.)
  • All matter particles have antimatter counterparts
    • Antimatter particles are identical to their matter counterpart but with the opposite charge
  • This means if a particle is positive, its antimatter particle is negative and vice versa
  • Common matter-antimatter pairs are shown in the diagram below:

Matter-Antimatter Table

2.1.5Antimatter-Table

  • Apart from electrons, the corresponding antiparticle pair has the same name with the prefix ‘anti-’ and a line above the corresponding matter particle symbol
  • A neutral particle, such as a neutron or neutrino, is its own antiparticle

Properties of Antiparticles

  • Although antimatter particles have the opposite charges to their matter counterparts, they still have identical mass and rest mass-energy
    • The rest mass-energy of a particle is the energy equivalent to the mass of the particle at rest
  • The datasheet provides the masses in kg and rest-mass energies in MeV for a proton, neutron, electron and neutrino
  • These masses are identical for their corresponding antiparticles (antiproton, antineutron, positron and antineutrino respectively)

Mass & Rest Energy Table

Properties of Antiparticles_ Mass & Rest Mass Energy Table, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

Annihilation & Pair Production

Annihilation

  • When a particle meets its antiparticle pair, the two will annihilate
  • Annihilation is:

When a particle meets its equivalent anti–particle they both are destroyed and their mass is converted into energy in the form of two gamma ray photons

2.1.5Annihilation

When an electron and positron collide, their mass is converted into energy in the form of two photons emitted in opposite directions

  • The minimum energy of one photon after annihilation is the total rest mass energy of one of the particles is:

Emin = hfmin = E

  • Where:
    • Emin = minimum energy of one of the photons produced (J)
    • h = Planck's Constant (J s)
    • fmin = minimum frequency of one of the photons produced (Hz)
    • E = rest mass energy of one of the particles (J)
  • To conserve momentum, the two photons will move apart in opposite directions
  • As with all collisions, the mass and energy is still conserved

Pair Production

  • Pair production is the opposite of annihilation
  • Pair production is:

When a photon interacts with a nucleus or atom and the energy of the photon is used to create a particle–antiparticle pair

2.2.5 Pair Production

When a photon with enough energy interacts with a nucleus it can produce an electron-positron pair

  • This means the energy of the photon must be above a certain value to provide the total rest mass energy of the particle–antiparticle pair
  • The minimum energy for a photon to undergo pair production is the total rest mass energy of the particles produced:

Emin = hfmin = 2E

  • Where:
    • Emin = minimum energy of the incident photon (J)
    • h = Planck's Constant (J s)
    • fmin = minimum frequency of the photon (Hz)
    • E = rest mass energy of one of the particles (J)
  • To conserve momentum, the particle and anti–particle pair move apart in opposite directions

Worked Example

Calculate the maximum wavelength of one of the photons produced when a proton and antiproton annihilate each other.

2.1.5 Annihilation Worked Example

Exam Tip

Since the Planck constant is in Joules (J) remember to always convert the rest mass-energy from MeV to J.

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Ashika graduated with a first-class Physics degree from Manchester University and, having worked as a software engineer, focused on Physics education, creating engaging content to help students across all levels. Now an experienced GCSE and A Level Physics and Maths tutor, Ashika helps to grow and improve our Physics resources.
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