Antimatter is a concept in physics that refers to particles that are similar to ordinary matter particles but have opposite electrical charges. In other words, antimatter is composed of antiparticles that correspond to the particles found in regular matter.
For example, the antiparticle of an electron, which is a fundamental particle in ordinary matter with a negative charge, is called a positron. A positron has the same mass as an electron but carries a positive charge. Similarly, the antiparticle of a proton, which has a positive charge, is called an antiproton, and it has a negative charge.
Scientists have been exploring the properties of antimatter and its potential applications. Some of the areas of research include medical imaging and diagnostics, as well as propulsion systems for space travel.
The energy released from matter-antimatter annihilation is incredibly high, making it a highly efficient fuel source in theory. However, the practical challenges of antimatter production, storage, and containment currently limit its widespread use.
Particles with no electric charge, like neutrons, are often their own antimatter partners. But researchers have yet to determine if mysterious tiny particles known as neutrinos, which are also neutral, are their own antiparticles.
Although it may sound like something out of science fiction, antimatter is real. Antimatter was created along with matter after the Big Bang. But antimatter is rare in today’s universe, and scientists aren’t sure why this exactly happened.
When antimatter particles come into contact with their corresponding matter particles, they annihilate each other, releasing a large amount of energy in the process. This annihilation process is governed by Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc², where “E” represents energy, “m” represents mass, and “c” is the speed of light. Since both matter and antimatter particles have the same mass but opposite charges, their annihilation results in the complete conversion of their mass into energy.
But one theory suggests that more matter than antimatter was created at the beginning of the universe, so that even after mutual annihilation, there was enough matter left to form stars, galaxies and, eventually, everything on Earth. The discrepancy would have been very tiny. Less than 1 in 1 billion ordinary particles would have survived the chaos and gone on to form all the matter around us today.
This annihilation is the most well-known characteristic of antimatter.
Antimatter has been studied in laboratories, and its properties have been confirmed through experiments. It plays a role in certain areas of scientific research, such as particle physics, where it can be used to study the fundamental properties of matter and to investigate the nature of the universe at a subatomic level.
The production and storage of antimatter pose significant challenges due to its tendency to quickly come into contact with matter and annihilate, as well as the high energy requirements for its creation. Currently, antimatter is mainly produced in small quantities through particle accelerators or during high-energy particle collisions.
Humans have created antimatter particles using ultra-high-speed collisions at huge particle accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider, which is located outside Geneva and operated by CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research). Several experiments at CERN create antihydrogen, the antimatter twin of the element hydrogen. The most complex antimatter element produced to date is antihelium, the counterpart to helium.
A rough estimate to produce the 10 milligrams of positrons needed for a human Mars mission is about 250 million dollars using technology that is currently under development,” Gerald Smith of Positronics Research LLC, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, said in a 2006 article for NASA. The cost might seem high, but it still costs around $10,000 per pound to send something into orbit, so a large spaceship plus its human crew would also be expensive to launch.
It has also found applications in medical imaging, such as in positron emission tomography (PET) scans, where positrons emitted by a radioactive substance are used to create images of internal body structures.
Antimatter is a fascinating topic in physics among scientists, and further research and understanding of its properties could have significant implications for our understanding of the universe and potential technological applications in the near future.