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Formation of an electron and a positron from high-energy electromagnetic radiation traveling through matter, usually in the vicinity of an atomic nucleus. It is a direct conversion of radiant energy into matter in accordance with the equation E = mc2, where E is the amount of energy, m is the mass, and c is the speed of light. It is one of the principal ways in which high-energy gamma rays are absorbed in matter. The positrons quickly disappear by being reconverted into photons in the process of annihilation with other electrons. Pair production may sometimes refer to the formation of other particle/antiparticle pairs as well.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on pair production, visit Britannica.com.