Antimatter is composed of the antiparticles of "ordinary" matter: positrons are electrons with a positive instead of negative charge, and anti-protons are protons that have a negative instead of positive charge. This is not to be confused with hypothetical Negative Matter, which has a similar charge to Positive Matter (matter having a Positive impact on space-time) but is negative and expresses the opposite force. When antimatter comes into contact with normal matter, these equal but opposite particles collide to produce an explosion emitting pure (100% efficient) radiation, which travels out of the point of the explosion at the speed of light. Both particles that created the explosion are mutually annihilated, which releases far more energy than nuclear fusion which only has about 3% efficiency.
When matter and antimatter collide, the energy released by their annihilation releases about 90 petajoules/kg. This is about 10 billion times the energy that chemical energy such as hydrogen and oxygen combustion releases, 1000 times more powerful than the nuclear fission produced in nuclear power plants and 300 times more powerful than nuclear fusion energy.
It is extremely expensive and difficult to produce and store. Instead it is much better to collect from naturally occurring (Van Allen) radiation belts around planets, and later on from neutron stars or supermassive black holes.
To store antimatter, magnetic containment fields are used. These are produced by magnetic constrictor coils in a container or 'core' which concentrates antimatter to the center of the reaction chamber. Matter-antimatter reactions and field integrity have to be continuously monitored to prevent cataclysmic explosions.
Isolated and stored anti-matter could be used as a fuel for interplanetary or interstellar travel as part of an antimatter catalyzed nuclear pulse propulsion or other antimatter rocketry, or simply as more advanced nuclear reactors for planetary power. They are predicted to be used in the future by humanity itself, after overcoming the difficult production and storage process.
A matter-antimatter engine would have:
- Magnetic storage rings - Antimatter must be separated from normal matter so storage rings with magnetic fields can move the antimatter around the ring until it is needed to create energy.
- Feed system - When the engine needs more power, the antimatter will be released to collide with a target of matter, which releases energy.
- Magnetic rocket nozzle thruster - Like a particle collider, a long magnetic nozzle will move the energy created by the matter-antimatter through a thruster for a spacecraft.
Antimatter-matter reactions have practical applications today in the form of positron emission tomography (PET). This medical imaging technique involves the detection of gamma rays (high-energy radiation) emitted by a positron-emitting tracer radionuclide, an atom with an unstable nucleus.
- March 2022. A small pulsar was seen emitting an enormous beam of matter and antimatter particles that streamed for 64 trillion kilometers across the Milky Way.