Baryon asymmetry

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The baryon asymmetry problem in physics refers to the imbalance in baryonic matter and antibaryonic matter in the observable universe. Neither the standard model of particle physics, nor the theory of general relativity provides an obvious explanation for why this should be so, and it is a natural assumption that the universe be neutral with all conserved charges.[1] The Big Bang should have produced equal amounts of matter and antimatter. Since this does not seem to have been the case, it is likely some physical laws must have acted differently or did not exist for matter and antimatter.

Several competing hypotheses exist to explain the imbalance of matter and antimatter that resulted in baryogenesis. However, there is as of yet no consensus theory to explain the phenomenon. As remarked in a 2012 research paper, "The origin of matter remains one of the great mysteries in physics."[2]

Possible explanations[edit]

CP (charge parity) violations[edit]

One of the Sakharov conditions for generating baryon asymmetry is that a process is able to happen at a different rate to its antimatter counterpart. This is called CP violation. In the Standard Model, CP violation appears as a complex phase in the quark mixing matrix of the weak interaction. There may also be a non-zero CP-violating phase in the neutrino mixing matrix, but this is currently unmeasured. CP violation was first observed in the 1964 Fitch-Cronin experiment with neutral kaons, which resulted in the 1980 Nobel Prize in physics. It should be noted that, given the limits on baryon number violation, the amount of CP violation in the Standard Model is insufficient to account for the observed baryon asymmetry of the universe, hence beyond-Standard Model sources are needed.

Regions of the universe where antimatter dominates[edit]

Another possible explanation of baryon asymmetry is that matter and antimatter are essentially separated into different, widely separated regions of the universe. From a distance, antimatter atoms are indistinguishable from matter atoms; both produce light (photons) in the same way. But along the boundary between matter and antimatter regions, annihilation (and the subsequent production of gamma radiation) would occur. How easy such a boundary would be to detect would depend on its distance and the density of matter and antimatter. Such boundaries, if they exist, would likely lie in deep intergalactic space. The density of matter in intergalactic space is reasonably well established at about one atom per cubic metre.[3][4] Assuming this is a typical density near a boundary, the gamma ray luminosity of the boundary interaction zone can be calculated. No such zones have been detected, but 30 years of research have placed bounds on how far they might be. On the basis of such analyses, it is now deemed unlikely that any region within the observable universe is dominated by antimatter.[2]

Electric dipole moment[edit]

The presence of an electric dipole moment (EDM) in any fundamental particle would violate both parity (P) and time (T) symmetries. As such, an EDM would allow matter and antimatter to decay at different rates leading to a possible matter-antimatter asymmetry as observed today. Many experiments are currently being conducted to measure the EDM of various physical particles. All measurements are currently consistent with no dipole moment. However, the results do place rigorous constraints on the amount of symmetry violation that a physical model can permit. The most recent EDM limit, published in 2014, was that of the ACME Collaboration, which measured the EDM of the electron using a pulsed beam of thorium monoxide (ThO) molecules.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sarkar, Utpal (2007). Particle and astroparticle physics. CRC Press. p. 429. ISBN 1-58488-931-4. 
  2. ^ a b Canetti, L.; Drewes, M.; Shaposhnikov, M. (2012). "Matter and Antimatter in the Universe". New J.Phys. 14: 095012. arXiv:1204.4186Freely accessible. Bibcode:2012NJPh...14i5012C. doi:10.1088/1367-2630/14/9/095012. 
  3. ^ Davidson, Keay; Smoot, George (2008). Wrinkles in Time. New York: Avon. pp. 158–163. ISBN 0061344443. 
  4. ^ Silk, Joseph (1977). Big Bang. New York: Freeman. p. 299. 
  5. ^ The ACME Collaboration; et al. (17 January 2014). "Order of Magnitude Smaller Limit on the Electric Dipole Moment of the Electron". Science. 343 (269): 269–72. doi:10.1126/science.1248213. PMID 24356114.