In the last article, we have understood the concept of dark matter, dark energy their properties and applications. In this article, we shall understand the concept of “antimatter.” Before that, let us make sure we understand the concept of “matter.”
Matter: Matter is anything that has mass and occupies space. All the matter contains small particles called atoms. An atom contains protons, neutrons, electrons and a nucleus. Atoms are building blocks of everything we touch in the real world. The protons, neutrons and electrons are called “Subatomic particles.”
Protons: A proton is a stable subatomic particle that is present in the nucleus of the atom. Protons have a positive electric charge.
Neutron: A neutron is also a stable subatomic particle present in the nucleus of the atom. Neutrons have no electric charge.
Electron: An electron is a stable subatomic particle orbiting around the nucleus of an atom. Electrons are negatively charged and are responsible for carrying electricity in solids.
Nucleus: Nucleus is a positively charged part of an atom which contains almost all the mass of it. It is the centre of the atom.
So these are the fundamental properties of matter. Now let us learn what antimatter is.
Antimatter: Antimatter refers to subatomic particles that have properties opposite to standard subatomic particles. As we know, the normal matter has protons, neutrons and electronics as subatomic particles. Even antimatter has them. They are as follows.
Positron: A positron is the opposite of an electron. It has a positive electric charge.
Antiproton: Antiproton is the opposite of proton. It has a negative electric charge.
When a typical atom and anti atom collide, they annihilate each other and releases energy. It is believed that the big bang has created equal amounts of matter and antimatter. If this is true, why there less than 1% of the antimatter found in cosmos that we have studied so far? Scientists are still trying to figure this out. Let us try to understand the history of antimatter.
History Of Antimatter: The term antimatter was first used by “Arthur Schuster” in 1898. He proposed anti-atoms, their behaviour, their existence in the solar system and what happens when the atom and anti atom collide. However, these were not considered serious due to lack of substantial proof.
In 1928, “Paul Dirac” developed a theory, which is now known as the “Dirac equation”. He combined quantum mechanics (which explains subatomic particles) with Einstein’s special relativity (which describes a world on a larger scale). It explained how electrons, travelling at near light-speed, behave. Paul used the positive charge and negative charge for the electron in the equation, and the results were astonishingly the same. Thus he theoretically discovered the “Positron” for which he is considered as “Father of Antimatter” and won a Nobel prize in 1933.
In 1932, “Carl D Anderson” passed cosmic rays through a gas chamber (Particle detector) and studied its tracks. To his surprise, he discovered a positively charged particle which has a mass equal to that of an electron. Thus positron is found, which is the experimental proof of antimatter. He won Nobel prize for the same in 1936.
In 1995, scientists at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) made the first antihydrogen by colliding antiprotons with xenon atoms. This collision produces a positron, which was attracted by another antiproton. The antimatter costs $2700 trillion per gram! It is made at CERN to study the nature of the particles.
Now we have understood the history of it, let us try to understand the applications of antimatter.
Applications Of Antimatter:
The concept of antimatter led to the foundation of PET ( Positron Emission Tomography), which is used to detect cancers, heart diseases, and many other diseases.
Antimatter studies show that it can be used to treat cancer. By carrying them safely through human skin tissue, the particles of antimatter can react with cancer tumor matter and efficiently eradicate it.
Antimatter can be used as fuel for interstellar space travel. Antimatter collides with matter an explosion occurs, and the two particles and releases energy. Antimatter is considered a perfect fuel since all the collision between matter and antimatter can be converted to energy.
Antimatter can be used to create explosives and other weapons. They will be ten times more powerful than the most powerful nuclear weapons. Because nuclear reactions only release 10% of their energy while gives all 100%.
The major drawbacks of antimatter are its scarcity and production cost. Let us hope that in the future we might find a way to produce the antimatter at a cheaper cost so that we can use the antimatter to its fullest potential.