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Scientists Propose Search for Exotic Atom Tauonium at Future Particle Colliders

In an exciting development for particle physics, scientists are proposing a hunt for a new variety of atom, tauonium, which would consist solely of a negatively charged tau lepton and its positively charged antimatter counterpart, an antitau. Unlike traditional atoms made up of a nucleus and electrons, tauonium would be free of these components, offering a novel area of study.

Tau leptons, relatives of electrons, are significantly heavier, each having about 3,500 times the mass of an electron, surpassing even the mass of a proton. This makes tauonium a much “burlier” atom compared to positronium, an atom discovered in the 1950s composed of an electron and its antiparticle, a positron.

Physicist Jing-Hang Fu of Beihang University in Beijing, along with colleagues, has suggested searching for tauonium by smashing electrons and positrons together at future particle colliders designed to produce tau leptons. Proposed facilities in China and Russia could potentially discover tauonium within a year of commencing operations, according to a report published on April 4 in Science Bulletin.

The researchers plan to look at the ratio of the probability of two different types of particle interactions in these collisions to reduce experimental uncertainty. By eliminating the complexity of the atomic nucleus, studies of tauonium could provide a unique opportunity to scrutinize quantum electrodynamics, the physics theory describing electrically charged particles. Positronium studies have already been utilized to test this theory, and tauonium could offer further insights.

If successful, the discovery of tauonium would mark a significant milestone in particle physics, potentially opening up new avenues for understanding the fundamental forces and particles that make up our universe.