The term “antimatter” has a sci-fi ring to it that may throw off non-fans. However, antimatter is a real thing, leaving us to ponder why it exists. Science has found antimatter to be of great importance, as it sheds light on many hitherto inexplicable features and processes of the cosmos, from its origins to its development. Further, comprehending it explains a wide range of physical phenomena that are present in the actual space environment. You’ll find here all the information you need to learn about antimatter, from its nature and uses to its significance in the scientific community.
Antimatter originates from one of those gigantic equations with a language that only expert physicists and mathematicians are able to decipher. At first glance, these equations seem wrong, and after so many equations, it is normal to think that there might have been a fatal error. However, antimatter exists and is as real as our own existence. And its existence disproves another of the great myths of space. It is a substance made up of what physicists and mathematicians have scientifically termed antiparticles. These particles are exactly the same as the particles we already know, only their electric charge is completely opposite.
Let’s look at an example: the antiparticle of an atomic particle like the electron, which has a negative charge, is a positron. It is a perfectly equal element, even with the same composition, but with a positive charge. It is as simple as that, and to try to complicate it further would be a mistake. In nuclear physics, particles and antiparticles arise in pairs. When the two collide, they are destroyed and disappear completely. Underneath what would be the result of this collision, a flash of light is generated. This is true for all particles, except for particles that, like neutrinos, have no charge at all. This is why the neutrino is both a particle and an antiparticle; this approach is known as the Majorana theory. The point is that some theories, such as that of Ettore Majorana, point precisely to the fact that in some particles, we can also find the antiparticle. This would be the case of dark matter, the cornerstone of his theory.
As we have seen, antimatter was discovered as a result of complex mathematical studies and enormous physical equations. In this sense, the physicist Paul Dirac was one of the first physicists in history to have studied antimatter. In 1930 he tried to unify all the most important physical currents that existed in a single theory. This would be the result of uniting Einstein’s theory of special relativity with the quantum mechanics initiated by Louis de Broglie. Dirac believed that these two currents, coherently united in a single theoretical framework, could become the answer to understanding the universe. His theories became one of the most brilliant predictions in the world of physics. This fusion of physical currents is what we know today as the Dirac equation. It is a fairly simple equation, but one that dazzled all the scientists of the time. The Dirac equation proposed something that seemed completely impossible: the assertion that there are particles whose energy charge is negative. From that moment on, it became possible to find out that particles also have negative energy, and this triggered a new reality for nuclear physics: there are countless particles with negative energy that had not yet been discovered by physics.
The first antimatter particles to be found came from cosmic rays, and were captured using a fog chamber. This type of camera is used to detect particles of ionising radiation; this is because they emit a gas that ionises after the particles pass through, and thanks to this it is possible to know the trajectory they have followed. This was made possible by the American physicist Carl D. Anderson. In his experiment with fog chambers, he was able to use a magnetic field so that when a particle passed through the chamber, the path was bent by its electric charge. Thus, we were able to perceive that the particles went one way and the antiparticle the other way. Subsequently, we discovered antiprotons and antineutrons, and since then the discoveries in this field have been increasingly important. Antimatter is becoming more and more relevant to physics in general, and this is very useful, because we must not forget that our own planet is constantly bombarded by antiparticles that are part of cosmic rays.
You have probably asked yourself: “What is antimatter good for? It is a question that every science lover asks at some point, and the answer is often surprising. The first thing you should be clear about is that scientific advances related to antimatter touch all fields of knowledge. Without going any further, it plays a fundamental role in tomography, i.e., imaging in sections. CT scans can be used not only in medicine, but also in oceanographic, archaeological, biological, geophysical, etc. Studies. The images obtained are very useful in all kinds of check-ups, and thanks to them we can know if we have an expanding tumour and the rate at which it is evolving. Similarly, thanks to antimatter studies, we can now analyse and consider the use of antiprotons in the treatment of all types of cancer. In the not-too-distant future, antimatter could become a crucial element in energy production. As we saw earlier, when matter and antimatter collide, they leave behind an enormous amount of energy in the form of light.
A single gram of antimatter could release energy equivalent to that of a nuclear bomb. So, in the context of the energy crisis, it is to be expected that studies of this concept will advance at great speed. And if you wonder why, it is not already being used, the current problem in using antimatter for energy purposes is its storage, which is still far from being solved. Last but not least, antimatter could explain the origin of the universe, the Big Bang. Consider this: if every particle of matter and antimatter destroys itself, there must be at least one more particle of matter than antimatter for us to exist. If the universe had been created in total symmetry of matter and antimatter, we would never have come into existence. But since we have come into existence, and have even sent animals into space to search for answers, mankind will continue to investigate the clues left behind by antimatter.