UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
Do you think we will ever be able to harness and/or contain the energy of antimatter for usage in most areas in a safe manner?
Question Date: 2012-06-05
Answer 1:

Maybe. Scientists at CERN have already succeeded in making individual anti-Hydrogen atoms (one positron and one anti-proton bound together) and trapping them for up to 15 minutes. That's impressive in many ways, but it's a long way off from producing useful quantities of antimatter. It's also important to remember that it took a tremendous amount of energy to create those few atoms. Someday it might be possible to make antimatter with much less energy (and by possible I mean it doesn't violate the known laws of physics) but we're a long way away from that point.

However, antimatter does some practical uses today. PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans are used in medicine to image the human brain and other organs. In a PET scan the patient is injected with a small amount of radioactive material called a tracer. As the tracer decays it emits positrons which collide with electrons in the patients body and give off very short bursts of gamma rays. These gamma rays are measured by an array of very sensitive detectors and the data is used to construct a 3d image of the organ. (see click here)

Answer 2:

Well, history has shown us that scientific advances in the future are often even more wild and exciting that what people can think of in the present, so I'm hesitant to use the word "never" when talking about what scientific technology we'll have developed in the future. Right now, the biggest problem with antimatter is that we have no way to contain it (since it just annihilates when it hits any kind of normal matter), so there's no way to store it once it's been created. However, it's possible that at some point, someone will solve this problem.

There is a bigger problem with using antimatter for energy, though: there is little to no antimatter in the universe! If we wanted to use antimatter for energy, we would need to create it from scratch, which would require huge amounts of energy. It would be much more energy efficient to just use the energy directly, rather than using it to create antimatter.

So, although I can't say whether or not we'll ever use antimatter in the far future, because of the above problems, it seems like it almost certainly will never be used in our lifetimes.

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use