Need a layman's explanation for how scientists contain antimatter

In summary, according to the article, a magnetic field is not necessary to contain antimatter because fluctuations in the zero-point energy cause it to exist in smaller amounts. However, this field is still a force, and it is still possible for particles to annihilate with it. The article also suggests that antimatter practically doesn't exist in nature because ordinary matter occupies all space, and the fluctuations end up in annihilation.
  • #1
Galactic explosion
35
9
TL;DR Summary
How can we contain antimatter by using ordinary matter (special magnetic fields) without causing annihilation? Paradox? Antimatter logically can't be contained in the universe we live in.
I know how antimatter is created, both naturally and under laboratory conditions. But what boggles me is how we can contain it without it interacting with its surroundings and causing annihilation.

Apparently scientists use a "special" magnetic field to contain it. But what's so special about this magnetic field, which carries both electrons and protons? As far as I know, a magnetic field is a *force*, that directly interacts with the environment, as a *force* should. And since a magnetic field is a force, the particles should directly interact with the antimatter, causing annihilation. How else can you contain something without using force? Unless, the magnetic field is made out of antimatter. But then again, the magnetic field itself would still end up annihilating due to the fact that it would interact with the regular matter in the nearby vicinity. You can't absolutely isolate anything in a specific location in space, of course! Everything is connected!

Let's not forget that ordinary matter occupies every possible Planck length of space at any given time due to quantum effects (fluctuations, tunnelling), which should again prevent antimatter in any significant amounts to remain stable.

I honestly can't see any logical way of containing antimatter, especially in very large amounts or as a weapon just because of its nature of being extremely unstable. Except gravity itself might be able to contain it very well, but we're obviously not using that.

Please help!
 
  • Skeptical
Likes weirdoguy
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
The device used is called a magnetic bottle.
some previous discussion on PF.
https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/how-does-a-magnetic-bottle-work.238002/
And a simulation
https://www.bing.com/videos/search?...302F1E76F25498BE94C2302F1E76F2549&FORM=WRVORC
Galactic explosion said:
Let's not forget that ordinary matter occupies every possible Planck length of space at any given time due to quantum effects
First time I have heard of that - any citation to read up on that interesting proposition.
 
  • #3
Antimatter logically can't be contained in the universe we live in.
If your conclusion is contradicted by reality then something must be wrong with your conclusion.

Antimatter can be stored in a vacuum. A magnetic field is neither matter nor antimatter. Things can't annihilate with an electromagnetic field. What is "special" about it is the field configuration - the question where the field should be how strong and go in which direction. Isolated matter particles can be stored in the same way, it is just less important as you can store hydrogen in a simple bottle - something you can't do with antihydrogen.
Galactic explosion said:
You can't absolutely isolate anything in a specific location in space, of course!
You can isolate things well enough to store particles for years, that is good enough in practice.
Galactic explosion said:
Let's not forget that ordinary matter occupies every possible Planck length of space at any given time due to quantum effects (fluctuations, tunnelling)
That makes no sense.
 
  • Like
Likes vanhees71 and Orodruin
  • #4
256bits said:
The device used is called a magnetic bottle.
some previous discussion on PF.
https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/how-does-a-magnetic-bottle-work.238002/
And a simulation
https://www.bing.com/videos/search?...302F1E76F25498BE94C2302F1E76F2549&FORM=WRVORCFirst time I have heard of that - any citation to read up on that interesting proposition.
The problem I have with this "magnetic bottle" goes back to my original question. Even after seeing the simulation, it still makes no sense on how the antimatter can disregard annihilation by not interacting with the magnetic field. Is there no interaction? If so, how does it physically avoid interaction? Again, in order for something to be "stopped" or "changed" (and in this case - contained), there must be a *force* applied. A magnetic field is a force, which directs a force to the antimatter, right? Or no?

You ask for a citation, the first paragraph in this Wiki article explains how zero-point energy is the lowest *possible* energy a quantum system can have. It goes on to say "According to quantum field theory, the universe can be thought of not as isolated particles but continuous fluctuating fields". This means that in any GIVEN space, there is a quantum field fluctuating its energy and can never reach absolute zero in temperature. There is ALWAYS a temperature throughout all points in space in our universe; you can't have a complete and absolute vacuum. This is why antimatter virtually doesn't exist in nature, because the ordinary matter in our universe occupies all space, and the fluctuations end up in annihilation. Even Hawking radiation won't allow antimatter to rule our universe.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-point_energy
 
  • Skeptical
Likes weirdoguy
  • #5
Galactic explosion said:
This is why antimatter virtually doesn't exist in nature, because the ordinary matter in our universe occupies all space, and the fluctuations end up in annihilation.

And as been said, this is nonsense and does not logically follow from article you cited.
 
  • #6
mfb said:
If your conclusion is contradicted by reality then something must be wrong with your conclusion.

Antimatter can be stored in a vacuum. A magnetic field is neither matter nor antimatter. Things can't annihilate with an electromagnetic field. What is "special" about it is the field configuration - the question where the field should be how strong and go in which direction. Isolated matter particles can be stored in the same way, it is just less important as you can store hydrogen in a simple bottle - something you can't do with antihydrogen.You can isolate things well enough to store particles for years, that is good enough in practice.That makes no sense.
My "conclusion" to me makes sense unless you can prove otherwise. I'm using my logic here. Something is not adding up with your "reality" if you think a vacuum is really void of ordinary matter.

You still haven't explained how this magnetic field "configuration" can avoid any interaction with the antimatter. What CAUSES them to just say "oh, ew. A magnetic field that I can't touch, but it fluctuates ALL OVER me."

As I replied to the first person, an absolute vacuum does not exist in our universe. There is a quantum field permeating all of space, and it doesn't allow antimatter to remain in a constant state of existence. Therefore, each Planck length of space is always occupied by different energies.

Look at this GIF of a quantum "vacuum", and tell me if you can stably contain antimatter for 15 minutes as they say they can. Impossible, I tell you. Unless you can seriously explain the mechanics of how you can avoid a FORCE of INTERACTION between matter and antimatter.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_fluctuation#/media/File:Quantum_Fluctuations.gif
 
  • #7
Galactic explosion said:
makes no sense on how the antimatter can disregard annihilation by not interacting with the magnetic field
Of course the antimatter interacts with the magnetic field, as witnessed by the fact that the magnetic bottle works.
Not sure why you think the "force" on the antimatter by the magnetic field should cause annihilation.
 
  • #8
weirdoguy said:
And as been said, this is nonsense and does not logically follow from article you cited.
Really? Because likewise no one has yet cited me an article that supports their arguments. I asked to explain the mechanics of how a magnetic field made out of ordinary matter can contain antimatter without the two reacting. Do they just consciously decide not to accidentally "bump" into each other? Are you seriously saying that the electrons in the magnetic field do not once interact and annihilate with the "contained" antimatter?
 
  • #9
256bits said:
Of course the antimatter interacts with the magnetic field, as witnessed by the fact that the magnetic bottle works.
Not sure why you think the "force" on the antimatter by the magnetic field should cause annihilation.
Oh, now we're getting somewhere. But this raises another question. How does the antimatter NOT annihilate with the magnetic field? Isn't antimatter supposed to do that when it meets "ordinary" matter? Or are there exceptions to this?
 
  • #10
Galactic explosion said:
Impossible, I tell you.

So you're here not to learn but to sell your vision of Nature? Sorry, PF is not for that. Besides, keep in mind that you are talking to physicists that know way more than you, so you should tone down a little bit.

Galactic explosion said:
Are you seriously saying that the electrons in the magnetic field

There are no electrons in magnetic filed.

Galactic explosion said:

Wiki is not a good source when it comes to more advanced topics. Read for example this:
https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/vacuum-fluctuation-myth/
 
  • #11
Galactic explosion said:
Oh, now we're getting somewhere. But this raises another question. How does the antimatter NOT annihilate with the magnetic field? Isn't antimatter supposed to do that when it meets "ordinary" matter? Or are there exceptions to this?
Magnetic field produced by matter( electrons or protons ), is the same type of field produced by antimatter( positrons or antiproton ) , except for polarity.
 
  • #12
weirdoguy said:
So you're here not to learn but to sell your vision of Nature? Sorry, PF is not for that. Besides, keep in mind that you are talking to physicists that know way more than you, so you should tone down a little bit.
There are no electrons in magnetic filed.
Wiki is not a good source when it comes to more advanced topics. Read for example this:
https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/vacuum-fluctuation-myth/
No electrons in a magnetic field?? So my high school teachers and internet sources that say protons and electrons carry the magnetic field are all wrong? Wow, who do I believe now if my education was all a lie? Is this some kind of joke?

So I'm guessing you're a physicist and you're saying quantum fluctuations are a myth, Hawking radiation is bogus, and black holes are not really black holes as predicted by GR? Was I really fed just lies? Are celebrity physicists like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, Brian Greene all phonies?
 
  • #13
256bits said:
Magnetic field produced by matter( electrons or protons ), is the same type of field produced by antimatter( positrons or antiproton ) , except for polarity.
Okay, but why are you not answering my question still? I understand that the same entire quantum field produces both matter and antimatter. But how are multiple nanograms (as they say) of antimatter stably CONTAINED for 15 minutes without it reacting to the ordinary matter that's apparently containing it? And also apparently, it's theoretically possible to contain GRAMS of antimatter without it bursting its surroundings to smithereens, just really, really expensive.

Again... my question should be simple to answer: How does contained antimatter not interact and annihilate the magnetic field that's containing it?
 
  • #14
Galactic explosion said:
protons and electrons carry the magnetic field

There is a magnetic field around moving charged particles. I suggest you be more open to the idea that you are misunderstanding something rather than everyone else being wrong.

Galactic explosion said:
Hawking radiation is bogus, and black holes are not really black holes as predicted by GR

No one said anything about those things, and they have nothing to do with your question.

Galactic explosion said:
How does contained antimatter not interact and annihilate the magnetic field that's containing it?

“Annihilation” means a particle and its corresponding antiparticle interact. An antiproton would have to come into contact with an proton. The magnetic field is in a configuration that ensures that the antiproton does not hit the wall of its container, which is made out of protons and where annihilation would happen. Inside the container there are no protons (or any other particles), hence no annihilation is happening.
 
  • #15
Galactic explosion said:
Was I really fed just lies?
No. What is going on here is a common issue with over-interpreting popular scientific material.

Pop-sci writing and TV-shows are necessarily imprecise translations of physics into ordinary language and a lot of the finer details are lost along the way as the real physics is written in mathematics, not English. This therefore requires the use of analogues, which often are far from perfect but the best (or at least passable) descriptions in ordinary language. However, and I cannot stress this enough, you cannot start logical reasoning based upon these descriptions and think that you will reach a valid conclusion. In particular, this is extra relevant when you start lashing on your own "intuition" and interpretations of the pop-sci material on top.

Just two examples from the present thread:
  1. You seem to believe that two object somehow need to be "in contact" in order for a force to exist between them. This is not the case. The force between two charged particles is mediated by the electromagnetic field. There is no need for the two charged particles to ever be in physical contact. The electromagnetic field is not "full of particles".
  2. Vacuum fluctuations do not create a net number of particles or anti-particles. They preserve particle number, meaning that if they would create a particle, then they would also need to create an anti-particle. If you had another anti-particle and that annihilated with the particle from the vacuum fluctuations, you would still be left with an anti-particle. Note that this is still very (very!) pictorial and not really a good description of what is going on.
Galactic explosion said:
Again... my question should be simple to answer: How does contained antimatter not interact and annihilate the magnetic field that's containing it?
And again, this has been answered many times over already. That anti-matter is never in contact with actual ordinary matter, just the magnetic field produced by that ordinary matter. The magnetic field does not consist of matter.
 
  • #16
Galactic explosion said:
No electrons in a magnetic field?? So my high school teachers and internet sources that say protons and electrons carry the magnetic field are all wrong? Wow, who do I believe now if my education was all a lie? Is this some kind of joke?

A magnet will attract an iron filing even in a vacuum : the air isn't what carries the magnetic field.

And, that's how antimatter is contained : magnetic fields in a vacuum - just keep them whizzing around and hope they don't collide with the stray particles that are still in there.

It's not even rocket science : ever see an old cathode-ray tube ? (ie: TV) : electrons are freed up, then fired at the screen and their trajectory modified by electromagnets... all in a vacuum.
 
Last edited:
  • #17
Galactic explosion said:
No electrons in a magnetic field?? So my high school teachers and internet sources that say protons and electrons carry the magnetic field are all wrong?

If they said that magnetic field consits of electrons and protons then yes, they are wrong. But I know they didn't say that, it's just you who misunderstood them.

Galactic explosion said:
So I'm guessing you're a physicist and you're saying quantum fluctuations are a myth, Hawking radiation is bogus, and black holes are not really black holes as predicted by GR?

And again no one said that. Drop that attitude.

Galactic explosion said:
Are celebrity physicists like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, Brian Greene all phonies?

The most basic thing - pop-science books are not meant to learn things from, they are written for people to have fun. I have a challenge for you - try to find things that they write in their pop-sci books in a proper textbook or peer-reviewed paper.
 
  • #18
Galactic explosion said:
Again... my question should be simple to answer: How does contained antimatter not interact and annihilate the magnetic field that's containing it?
Annihilation is in general a reaction between a particle and its corresponding antiparticle. A positron can annihilate with an electron - but not with a proton. An antiproton can annihilate with a proton - but not with an electron. I said "in general" because there are some more reactions, like antiproton plus neutron, but they are not relevant here.

No particle can annihilate with an electromagnetic field, which is neither matter nor antimatter. There is simply no possible reaction that would destroy the antimatter. Antiproton + photon -> ? doesn't work (the only possible result is antiproton+photon, i.e. no annihilation).

----

You should really work on your attitude. You try to discuss with physicists working on these topics - and you come with some half-understood popular science descriptions.
 
  • Like
Likes bhobba
  • #19
So this is now what I'm getting from everyone:

"I misinterpreted how the magnetic field works"
"A quantum field is produced by particles that generate it"
"A magnetic field moves around the particles"
"Pop-sci books are misleading to the public and made just for s.h*ts and giggles, not for education"

If particles really do intrinsically generate an energy field that surrounds them, and that is what prevents antimatter from "interacting" with the particles, then my question has finally been answered. Thank you.

But please DO NOT tell me that I misunderstood what "educators" have told me, because everything that I've read has stated that particles are generated by quantum fields, not vise versa. That particles are simply excitations of a quantum field. That a wave in a quantum field is its corresponding particle. That particles technically don't even exist, and are merely representations of the frequencies in that energy field. And that finally particles and their fields are one and the same, NOT separate entities just related to each other.

One last thing. if what you guys said about pop-sci books is true. Then BLAME the AUTHOR, NOT the public, because I and many others have fallen to the idea that "physics for dummies" and "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry" is to be taken to heart and easily simplified, yet absolutely accurate and educational for the regular joe to understand the beauty and nature of the universe. THAT is preposterous, despicable, and unfair to me because I'm genuinely curious and awed by physics and how things work. And to find out that what I learned is a result of false education? What a shame.
 
  • #20
Galactic explosion said:
And to find out that what I learned is a result of false education. What a shame.

Yeah sucks ; popsci programs aren't intrinsically horrible, but their goal is entertainment, not enlightenment.

Galactic explosion said:
If particles really do intrinsically generate an energy field that surrounds them, and that is what prevents antimatter from "interacting" with the particles, then my question has finally been answered. Thank you.

The magnetic field is generated by an electromagnet. The field extends out through a vacuum and repels or attracts the anti-ions, just like it would regular ions with the same charge.
 
  • #21
Galactic explosion said:
A quantum field is produced by particles that generate it

I did not read all answers of others in detail, but afaik there was nothing said about the relation of quantum fields and particles. This is really mostly a problem in classical electrodynamics.

Galactic explosion said:
particles really do intrinsically generate an energy field that surrounds them

We are really talking about classical electromagnetic fields here. Just get two magnets like you would use to pin things to your fridge, and hold them close to each other, they are clearly interacting even before they are touching each other.

Galactic explosion said:
yet absolutely accurate

The point is, to make really accurate statements you need the appropriate language, which in the case of physics is mathematics. Statements in ordinary english language are rarely accurate enough to make further deductions from them.

Galactic explosion said:
THAT is preposterous, despicable, and unfair to me because I'm genuinely curious and awed by physics and how things work.

If this is true I think PF is a great place to ask questions, and people are usually happy to iron out misunderstanding from pop-sci books. This will however only work if you acknowledge that those misunderstandings exist and that if a pop-sci book seems to contradict an answer, it is more likely that this is another misunderstandin.
 
  • #22
mfb said:
Annihilation is in general a reaction between a particle and its corresponding antiparticle. A positron can annihilate with an electron - but not with a proton. An antiproton can annihilate with a proton - but not with an electron. I said "in general" because there are some more reactions, like antiproton plus neutron, but they are not relevant here.

No particle can annihilate with an electromagnetic field, which is neither matter nor antimatter. There is simply no possible reaction that would destroy the antimatter. Antiproton + photon -> ? doesn't work (the only possible result is antiproton+photon, i.e. no annihilation).

----

You should really work on your attitude. You try to discuss with physicists working on these topics - and you come with some half-understood popular science descriptions.
Okay... now I really am starting to understand this more. I always knew an electromagnetic field was made of light, but when they just said a "magnetic field", I automatically thought just electrons. My problem was that I didn't know exactly what a magnetic field was. I didn't know it was actually a photon field that exhibits a force on electrons. I knew a magnetic field was related to electromagnetism because I know that spinning a magnet in a coil generates electricity and light, but it stopped there for me.

I definitely need to study electricity and magnetism and how they are related a lot more. But I do apologize for my demeanor, it was... aggressive.

Thank you all for clearing it up for me.
 
  • Like
Likes 256bits, Vanadium 50, hmmm27 and 3 others

1. What is antimatter and why is it important for scientists to contain it?

Antimatter is a type of matter that is composed of particles with the same mass as regular matter, but with opposite electrical charges. When antimatter comes into contact with regular matter, they annihilate each other and release large amounts of energy. Scientists are interested in studying antimatter because it can provide insights into the fundamental principles of the universe and has potential applications in energy production and medical imaging.

2. How do scientists contain antimatter?

Scientists use powerful magnetic fields to contain antimatter particles. These fields are used to trap the particles and prevent them from coming into contact with regular matter. The particles are also kept in a vacuum to avoid any interactions with air molecules. Additionally, scientists use specialized equipment and techniques to produce and handle small amounts of antimatter in a controlled environment.

3. What challenges do scientists face in containing antimatter?

One of the main challenges in containing antimatter is its tendency to come into contact with regular matter and annihilate, which makes it difficult to handle and study. Another challenge is producing enough antimatter for research purposes, as it requires a lot of energy and specialized equipment. Additionally, the high cost and complexity of creating and maintaining the necessary equipment for containing antimatter can be a barrier for some scientists.

4. Can antimatter be used as a source of energy?

Yes, antimatter has the potential to be a highly efficient source of energy. When antimatter particles annihilate with regular matter, they release a large amount of energy. However, the process of creating and containing antimatter is currently very expensive and challenging, making it an impractical source of energy at this time.

5. Are there any risks associated with containing antimatter?

There are some risks associated with containing antimatter, as it is a highly unstable and volatile substance. If not properly contained and controlled, antimatter could come into contact with regular matter and cause explosions or other hazardous reactions. However, scientists take extensive precautions and safety measures to minimize these risks and ensure the safe handling of antimatter.

Similar threads

  • High Energy, Nuclear, Particle Physics
Replies
3
Views
988
  • High Energy, Nuclear, Particle Physics
Replies
6
Views
3K
Replies
12
Views
1K
  • High Energy, Nuclear, Particle Physics
Replies
14
Views
2K
  • High Energy, Nuclear, Particle Physics
Replies
18
Views
3K
Replies
3
Views
1K
  • High Energy, Nuclear, Particle Physics
Replies
9
Views
4K
Replies
17
Views
2K
  • High Energy, Nuclear, Particle Physics
Replies
26
Views
3K
  • Sci-Fi Writing and World Building
Replies
24
Views
4K
Back
Top