What is Antimatter?
Literally, antimatter is the actual opposite of matter. For every sub-atomic particle that is, anti-proton, electrons, there exists an anti-particle that is, anti-proton, anti-electron, anti-neutron. An anti-particle will have the same mass as the particle but a different charge to the particle.
A positron which is the positive electron has a lepton number of -1. The position has the same mass as the proton. The proton is a positively charged subatomic particle made up of 3 quarks, making it have a baryon number of 1. The anti-proton which is the same as the proton but negatively charged has a baryon number of -1. For neutral sub-atomic particles that is, neutrons, the anti-neutron has the same mass and zero charge but has a baryon number of -1 similar to the anti-proton.
What happens when an Antimatter and matter interact
The result is explosive annihilation. When a positron interacts with an electron, they both annihilate to produce two x-ray energy photons. So you can say we are lucky antimatter is rear. If not, we would have experienced explosive annihilation. The energy released when anti-matter reacts with matter is approximately 2500 megatons.
Discovery of Antimatter
In the 20th century, 1928 to be precise, one of the founding fathers of modern science Paul Dirac, tried to solve an equation that included the effects of the theory of special relativity to describe the behavior of electrons in the microscopic world. When he solved it, the equation had two solutions that corresponded to electrons with negative energy going back in time.
However, Paul was so sure of what he did and interpreted it to denote an anti-electron with the energy going forward in time.
After 4 years, an experimental physicist Carl Anderson proved Paul Dirac right by observing the anti-electron and positron. This discovery earned Carl a Nobel prize in 1936. Paul Dirac won the Nobel prize back in 1933 before Carl for his contribution to atomic physics. In the experiment, Carl used a device called the Cloud Chamber. This device is a standard instrument used back in the 20th century for nuclear physics experiments. Carl did not relent, he continued and tested his results over and over until he could ascertain the reality of the position.
Antimatter that we get from nuclear particles is mostly from sub-atomic level atoms like positrons, anti-protons, neutrons, and Mesons.
Uses of Antimatter
- Positron Emission Tomography: Antimatter reactions have practical applications in medical imaging. The Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is used for this.
- Tumour Radiation: Antimatter is also used to fight cancer.
- Fuel: Stored antimatter could be used as fuel for interstellar and interplanetary travels as part of another antimatter rocket.
- Weapons: It has been found that antimatter can be also used to produce nuclear weapons. The reason this is not popular is that it has not been proven feasible.