Positronium

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Positronium (Ps) is a system consisting of an electron and its anti-particle, a positron, bound together into an "exotic atom". It is unstable, the two particles annihilating each other to produce two gamma ray photons after an average lifetime of 142 ns in vacuum. The orbit of the two particles and the set of energy levels is similar to that of the hydrogen atom (electron and proton). However, because of the reduced mass, the frequencies associated with the spectral lines are less than half of those of the corresponding hydrogen lines.

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States

The ground state of positronium, like that of hydrogen, has two possible configurations depending on the relative orientations of the spins of the electron and the positron.

The singlet state with antiparallel spins (S = 0, Ms = 0) is known as para-positronium (p-Ps) and denoted 1
S
0
. It has a mean lifetime of 125 picoseconds and decays preferentially into two gamma quanta with energy of 511 keV each (in the center of mass frame). Detection of these photons allows for the reconstruction of the vertex of the decay and is used in the positron emission tomography. Para-positronium can decay into any even number of photons (2, 4, 6, ...), but the probability quickly decreases as the number increases: the branching ratio for decay into 4 photons is 1.439(2)×10−6
.[1]

para-positronium lifetime (S = 0):[1]

The triplet state with parallel spins (S = 1, Ms = −1, 0, 1) is known as ortho-positronium (o-Ps) and denoted 3S1. The triplet state in vacuum has a mean lifetime of 142.05±0.02 ns[2] and the leading mode of decay is three gamma quanta. Other modes of decay are negligible; for instance, the five photons mode has branching ratio of ~1.0×10−6
.[3]

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