Psalms 19:1, NIV
In the scriptures of Christianity, they call it the battle between light and dark. Perhaps, science would relate such a battle to one it combats, namely a battle between reliable knowledge and ignorance.
Such battles exist within physics. One of them resides within the concepts of matter and antimatter.
Welcome, fellow Hivians, to our next final discussion on energy for some time. In our final topic of this series, we discuss antimatter. I include antimatter in the theoretical realm because we have yet to utilize it in energy production or anything outside of research. In this blog, we will discuss its discovery, research, and potential applications.
Depression and Discovery
It was the time of the swing dance and the Great Depression. Unemployment rates rose to 24%, along with the further deterioration of the economy. Franklin D. Roosevelt became President.
In 1931, an English physicist named Paul Dirac predicted the existence of antimatter by combining quantum mechanics and Einstein's Special Relativity. His findings weren't just profound. It was...legendary.
He found that his combined equations predicted a universe of mirror particles. In 1933, Paul's discovery led him to receive the Nobel Prize.
And in 1932, a scientist named Carl Anderson spotted something positively charged during his study of cosmic particles in a cloud chamber that had an electron's mass. Anderson's lengthy study and observation of the phenomenon led him to the discovery of the positron as stated in his paper entitled, "The Apparent Existence of Easily Deflectable Positive". Anderson won the Nobel Prize for validating the positron's discovery along with Victor Hess.
Along with others, their work further paved the way for the discovery of other antimatter particles.
Almost 80 years have passed with significant discoveries of antimatter properties and characteristics. However, many more significant questions remain.
One question is the relationship between matter and antimatter. Suppose matter and antimatter were to collide, annihilation would result from the reaction. In terms of positrons and electrons, the energy released would amount to 1.022 MeV.
The speed of the energy release also surpasses that of a nuclear explosion, and by order of a thousand times faster. In other reports, one pound of antimatter would be as powerful as 19 megatons of TNT.
These properties of antimatter are seductive to those outside of a pure research world. Anyone from weapons development to space travel looks forward to the day of practical antimatter use. Fortunately for the rest of humanity, we're just fine with learning about this elusive topic. One topic that is a constant in antimatter research, for instance, is the reason why matter, versus antimatter, dominates the observable universe.
Science holds that, in the beginning, equality existed between matter and antimatter. As time progressed, matter began to dominate the universe. For every billion particles of matter, one particle of antimatter seemingly exists. Science sees this in its observations but cannot explain this reality.
The reason for the imbalance escapes scientists today. The Large Hadron Collider revealed one possible contributor to the imbalance, but there are still many hurdles to come before that definitive answer.
Despite these conundrums, we know antimatter exists. Not only is their existence a certainty, but we can also produce antimatter in minimal quantities. Remember, whenever antimatter and matter collide, the result is the annihilation of both particles releasing energy.
Further results may come from CERN through its Antimatter Factory. This endeavor aims to slow high energy antiprotons and either capture them in a magnetic cage for study or combine them with other atoms to observe their interaction.
Yet, despite all that we DON'T know about antimatter, society still yearns to utilize it. At least one application actually exists in the medical field.
Positron Emission Topography (PET)
Patients undergoing a PET scan first receive a radioisotope injection that decays to produce a positron. Positrons interact with atoms within the brain. The PET scan provides a real-time view of metabolic activity within the brain following matter-antimatter interactions. The result is an image that will show you how active your brain regions behave.
A humorous article in Forbes highlighted the possibility of space travel using antimatter within 10 years. The article was posted on February 24, 2016. By the time the article finished that 10 years turned into a range of 20 - 30 years. I wish someone would say they didn't know when. It seems to solve many problems, but more likely than not will lead them to lose funding.
The spaceship proposed in the article consisted of, among other things, a depleted uranium sail with a solid anti-hydrogen chamber to store its 17-gram antimatter payload. The concept is that antihydrogen interaction with the sail induces fission within the sail. The fission induced then emits two particles utilized to push the sail and then store antimatter fuel in the chamber.
Electrical Power Production
Generating electrical energy currently resides in the realm of the fantastic. If lightning storms produce antimatter in the upper atmosphere, CERN produces them through high energy physics, and even bananas produce them as Potassium-40 ions decay within them. We know how nature and man produce antimatter, but the immutable truth is that we can't effectively store and utilize antimatter.
We would need to use antimatter creatively. Human society is only capable of creating heat incrementally.
- Nuclear Power plants must gradually control the fission process to create the heat needed to turn water into steam.
- Coal Power power plants substitute uranium for coal, but must also gradually heat water to create steam.
Antimatter reactions are too fast and energetic. We must overcome the difficulties of containment, and we need a process to contain the energy release.
Electrical power production through antimatter must currently remain a topic of science fiction.
China's Circular Electron Positron Collider
Beijing's high energy physics institute has big plans for a collider that dwarf's the Large Hadron Collider. Part of their plan involves creating the ability to produce Higgs bosons in great amounts than the LHC.
China's collider will run along a 1.4 km (0.87 miles) circle and 100 meters in the ground. While its creation hints at competition with CERN, China has sights on collaboration and discovery with its varying counterparts worldwide.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Thank you, everyone, for joining me during this energy series - electrical power production. The next area I'll be exploring is energy transmission. How do we transfer power from the point we generate it to where we consume it. I find that, in this area, art imitates life.
I'll also be continuing with Environmental Impacts. It's been a while since I've written on this topic, and I'm looking forward to delving into it again.
During the following weeks, I'll also be writing more on @LeoFinance. I've enjoyed the engagement on that platform and look forward to writing more in that group.
Posted with STEMGeeks