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Don't Let Its Name Deceive, Antimatter Is Rare and Expensive

antimatter is rare and expensive

By Thursday, 18 October 2018 03:09 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Probably the most well-known equation is Einstein’s E=MC². This calculus tells us that matter can be converted to energy and that even the smallest amount yields tremendous amounts of energy.

Some mass is lost — converted to energy — as petroleum, coal, and natural gas are burned. It’s precious little, but some: around one billionth part. Comparing that with the one tenth of one percent efficiency of nuclear fission puts things in perspective, along with the most efficient of them all, nuclear fusion, which still ekes out nothing better than one-half of one percent of the fuel converted to pure energy.

That’s still 10 million times better than burning a log though.

So, is one half of one percent efficiency — whether at the center of the sun or in the warhead of an ICBM missile — the best there is?

In fact, there is something far more efficient, even hitting the very 100 percent bull's-eye itself. Causing matter and antimatter to touch produces the total annihilation of both, yielding 200 times more power than fusion. It is the ultimate in energy conversion since improving on complete efficiency is impossible.

There are no anti-matter mines on Earth but supposition should be allowed to ask if there is any to be found or some to be made, and if so where and how.

Antimatter, in the first place, was created at the same instant as all matter, just that for every billion particles of antimatter synthesized by the incalculable energy of the Big Bang there were one billion and one particles of matter created simultaneously.

Before the first second of time had ticked off, every antimatter particle annihilated itself and its partner-particle of matter — except for the one in a billion motes of matter that were left with no anti-matter duplicate with which to couple.

In the most fortuitous bending of the rules of universal laws, those left-over matter particles, thanks only to this "C-P violation," are what today makes up the physical stuff of the entire universe. There wouldn’t be anything tangible at all in the cosmos, nor sentient beings like us to try and makes sense of it, were it not for this greatest of all accounting errors on the part of nature.

And as far as the means to acquire potential primordial material, there wouldn’t seem to be any original antimatter out there from fourteen and a half billion years ago.

That doesn’t mean there’s none in existence however. In 2008 an article was published in the prestigious science journal Nature which discovered a zone with a spike in naturally created antimatter. Unfortunately, this potential bonanza of antimatter is in the vicinity of the core of our Milky Way galaxy — and it hardly counts anyway as a mother lode since this trove still only equals one positron (an anti-electron) among every billion particles in the vacuum of interstellar space near the galactic center.

Nonetheless, several studies funded by the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts are exploring the possibilities of utilizing magnetic scoops to collect the antimatter (without physically touching it) that occurs naturally nearer to home in the Van Allen Radiation belt of the Earth, and in time, the belts of gas giants like Jupiter.

If it can’t be readily found can it be made then?

The Nobel Prize for physics in 1959 was awarded jointly to Owen Chamberlain and Emilio Segre for the first man-made creation of the antiproton at the Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley, so humanity has been in the antimatter creation business for over half a century now. It’s produced at accelerators amid the profusion of particles resulting from colliding subatomic particles at speeds very close to the velocity of light.

However, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest particle accelerator, even if used exclusively for making antimatter, could produce no more than about 1 billionth of one gram per year. The total amount of antimatter produced in LHC’s 10 year history is less than 10 nanograms.

Given those constraints antimatter is doubtlessly the most expensive substance on Earth. NASA in 1999 estimated its cost to be about $62.5 trillion a gram or $1.75 quadrillion per ounce. Credit Suisse, in its 2015 Global Wealth Report, estimated the complete assets of the human race at approximately $250 trillion — enough to purchase the equivalent of one sugar cube of antimatter, but at the cost of bankrupting every person alive.

None of that has stopped intrepid souls from designing plans for antimatter electrical generators, space vehicles and weapons systems — and patenting some of them as in the case of the electrical generator. They aren’t to be classified under the same category as solutions for squaring the circle or schematics for perpetual motion machines but nevertheless probably within the same filing cabinet.

David Nabhan is a science writer, the author of "Earthquake Prediction: Dawn of the New Seismology" (2017) and three previous books on earthquakes. Nabhan is also a science fiction writer ("Pilots of Borealis," 2015) and the author of many scores of newspaper and magazine op-eds. Nabhan has been featured on television and talk radio all over the world. His website is www.earthquakepredictors.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Causing matter and antimatter to touch produces the total annihilation of both, yielding 200 times more power than fusion. It is the ultimate in energy conversion.
cern, coal, earth, nasa
Thursday, 18 October 2018 03:09 PM
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