Fuel of the future is antimatter

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Recently read in an article that the fuel of the future was antimatter... My question is how would they contain antimatter to get it to react with only the matter that they wanted it to react with. You wouldn't be able to put it in a container, wouldn't it collide with the matter and completely annilihate itself?
 

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  • #2
chroot
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You can use electric and/or magnetic fields.

- Warren
 
  • #3
Labguy
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Originally posted by Inquiring_Mike
Recently read in an article that the fuel of the future was antimatter... My question is how would they contain antimatter to get it to react with only the matter that they wanted it to react with. You wouldn't be able to put it in a container, wouldn't it collide with the matter and completely annilihate itself?
They do it, as chroot said, in colliders such as CERN and Fermilab by (large) magnetic fields. It circles the colliders in the opposite direction as "normal" matter, and when enough is injected into the stream, it is diverted into a collision chamber where it collides with matter and creates some of the more exotic and energetic particles recently discovered. Z and W particles for example, and still looking for a possible "Higgs" particle.

Labguy
 
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  • #4
Phobos
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Welcome to Physics Forums, Inquiring_Mike!

Your suspicion is correct...antimatter is a tricky thing to store. Chroot and Labguy explain how it's possible, but so far no one has made a way to store a large enough quantity for a long enough time in order to make it a feasible fuel alternative. Even generating the stuff is insanely expensive (you need, like, a supercollider).
 
  • #5
Potential Antimatter Storage Designs

The below websites have a couple of ideas regarding the storage of antimatter (in the forms of antihydrogen and antiproton).

http://www.hbartech.com/niac_sail1_final.pdf [Broken]

http://www.dur.ac.uk/graeme.watt/antimatter.ppt [Broken]
 
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  • #6
LURCH
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Originally posted by Phobos
Welcome to Physics Forums, Inquiring_Mike!

Your suspicion is correct...antimatter is a tricky thing to store. Chroot and Labguy explain how it's possible, but so far no one has made a way to store a large enough quantity for a long enough time in order to make it a feasible fuel alternative. Even generating the stuff is insanely expensive (you need, like, a supercollider).
I weonder if someday we'll be able to skip the production step and just harvest stars for it. I read on time that a single solar flare (a particularly large one) produced a whole pound of antimatter. This is not typical, of course, but appearently it happens in smaller quantities during most solar flares.

http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/topstory/2003/0903rhessi.html [Broken] has more info. Before we could harvest the stuff, we'd have to figure out where exactly it's produced, and how it moves.
 
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  • #7
Solar Flare Antimatter Energy Derivatives

It might be easier than you think.

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2003/12nov_haywire.htm [Broken]
 
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  • #8
jimmy p
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What is more effective at containing antimatter, a magnetic field or using an electromagnet, and wouldnt it be quite unefficient? i mean wouldnt a lot of energy be needed to contain the antimatter, or would the resultant matter-antimatter reaction provide more than enough energy?
 
  • #9
neutroncount
Originally posted by jimmy p
What is more effective at containing antimatter, a magnetic field or using an electromagnet, and wouldnt it be quite unefficient? i mean wouldnt a lot of energy be needed to contain the antimatter, or would the resultant matter-antimatter reaction provide more than enough energy?

An electromagnet produces a magnetic field so you're essentially saying the same thing. Do you mean magnetic fields as opposed to electric fields? Either can be used or they can be used together depending on the conditions you need for your storage and what you are actually storing. I'd say the most energy needed would be to make the antimatter to store. The next major amount of energy used would be to slow it down so it can be stored. Once stored, it wouldn't take much energy to contain it. You just have to worry about matter-antimatter collisions ruining all your hard work.
 
  • #10
jimmy p
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i'm not sure if you get what i mean. Say for example in Star Trek where they use antimatter to power the warp engines, would it require more energy to store the antimatter than would be used to power the engines (dont forget that antimatter would have to be stored as well!)

I know this is theoretical (as believe it or not, Star Trek isnt real ) but there must be equations to work out the energy needed to store antimatter.
 
  • #11
LURCH
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No, the energy needed to store the antimatter would not be nearly as much as the energy released by an antimatter reaction.

The energy needed to produce the antimatter, however would be more than the yield.
 
  • #12
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All you need is an magnet, a vacuumchamber and an anti-metall, like anti-iron (if it exists) if not less. The trick is to find the anti-metall, instead of making it.

Best wishes Sariaht
 
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  • #13
russ_watters
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Originally posted by jimmy p
I know this is theoretical (as believe it or not, Star Trek isnt real ) but there must be equations to work out the energy needed to store antimatter.
Since the point of containment is simply keeping the anti-matter from touching anything, all you need to overcome is its kinetic energy. Not much.
All you need is an magnet, a vacuumchamber and an anti-metall, like anti-iron (if it exists) if not less. The trick is to find the anti-metall, instead of making it.
And how would you bolt this anti-engine to your spaceship without annihilating the solar system?
 
  • #14
LURCH
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Originally posted by russ_watters
Since the point of containment is simply keeping the anti-matter from touching anything, all you need to overcome is its kinetic energy. Not much. And how would you bolt this anti-engine to your spaceship without annihilating the solar system?
I think he's talking abouit attaching the magnet to the ship, and using the magnet to suspend the antimetal. Still it's a good engineering problem, perhaps you could set it on a platform with a pully attached to the ceiling? No wait, attached to the platform?[b(]
 
  • #15
russ_watters
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Originally posted by LURCH
...perhaps you could set it on a platform with a pully attached to the ceiling? No wait, attached to the platform?[b(]
Could we attach it to my car? I think I'm going to have some fun getting to work tomorrow...
 
  • #16
jimmy p
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Hah, Spock never saw that coming did he?? Not so logical now ARE YOU Leonard!
 
  • #17
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You cannot use charge, (neither protones, electrones, positrones nor antiprotones would work).

You bombard the metal with particles to get energy.

The metal is inside the vacuumchamber.

The magnet keeps the metal from touching the walls of the vacuumchamber.
 

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