anti-hydrogen annihilation
Credit: Michael Martin Nieto, Michael H. Holzscheiter, Slava G. Turyshev

Warp Speed Ahead?

It's widely recognized in science and science fiction that travel to distant stars, or even to relatively close regions like the Oort Cloud requires enormous speeds (about 10% of the speed of light or more) to be accomplished in reasonable times. This means that futuristic spaceships will require extremely high energy density fuel, which means anti-matter fuel. Anti-matter, when combined with normal matter converts matter entirely into energy, and it produces about 1000 times more energy per gram than nuclear fission or even nuclear fusion. The difficulty is producing substantial amounts of anti-matter (and also confining the antimatter and controlling its conversion to energy). There is now an anti-matter "factory" at the Conseil European pour la Recherché Nucleaire (or, more familiarly, CERN) which has produced about 100,000 anti-hydrogen atoms (consisting of a positron and an anti-proton). The image above shows annihilation events from the CERN facility as anti-hydrogen combines with normal hydrogen atoms within a strong magnetic field. There is a proposed anti-matter factory to be built in Germany, but none yet in the US. It is estimated that it may take about 50 years before spacecraft can use anti-matter engines for deep-space mission.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:27:51 EDT