Frequently Asked Questions About Antimatter

If you’ve ever had anything more than a passing interest in the world of science fiction, you have probably heard about the exotic ‘antimatter’. You have perhaps even found yourself asking if antimatter is even real or whether it is just something invented by writers. The answer is ‘yes’, the existence of antimatter has been known for decades. And recently it has even been created in miniscule amounts by the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

Antimatter is the exact opposite to regular matter. Antimatter atoms are composed of antiparticles that have the same mass as their counterparts but the opposite values in other properties. Because of this, the interaction between antimatter and antimatter causes them to completely annihilate each other releasing one-hundred percent of their mass as energy. This makes antimatter-matter interactions the most efficient method possible within the laws of physics to generate energy. The problem is, however, that producing it is unimaginably expensive and difficult and, with current technology, it is not possible to create enough for many useful applications. Currently, the only practical use of antimatter is found in PET scans (Positron Emission Tomography) as a way to identify different diseases.

Following are some frequently asked questions about antimatter.

is mission to mars possible Could Antimatter Power a Spacecraft?

One of the most frequently postulated uses for antimatter is to power a spacecraft and indeed, many of the starships of the science fiction world zip around the galaxy using their antimatter-powered engines. However, antimatter does not break any laws of physics and, in reality, an antimatter-powered spacecraft would still not be able to exceed the speed of light. Nonetheless, antimatter-matter interactions with their colossal energy release could, theoretically, power an incredibly fast spacecraft. The problem is that, using current technology, it is far from within our reach to create enough antimatter for such an application.

Could Antimatter Build a Weapon of Mass Destruction?

Just like powering a spacecraft, antimatter would be required in prohibitively large amounts to power a weapon of mass destruction. Again, it would, using today’s technology, take millions of years just to create enough antimatter to do anything useful with. Future technology may well make antimatter weapons more feasible however, in which case, things like nuclear bombs would pale in comparison.

How Is Antimatter Stored?

As soon as antimatter and matter come into contact, the particles completely obliterate each other. Because of this, you can hardly place them into just any old container and hope that they will sit together minding their own business. If you place antimatter in a container made of regular matter, it will be destroyed immediately. The only way to safely store antimatter without destroying it is to suspend it in electrical or magnetic fields, keeping it away from the walls of the container that it’s stored in.

What Does Antimatter Look Like?

Antimatter doesn’t look any different to normal matter. As of 2013, only very simple atoms have been created; antihelium and anithydrogen. Their chemical symbols are the same as their matter counterparts but with a line over the top. It is widely believed that the entire Universe is made up of matter, although some scientists believe that there may be galaxies, stars or other objects in adequately secluded space which are composed of antimatter. If there are, then we would have no way of telling the difference unless they interact with objects made from regular matter, in which case they would annihilate each other.

O.K., now that we cleared that up …. I bet you are wonder if Dark Energy is real.

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