Could antimatter engines power interstellar travel? Experts are divided after antimatter research took a large step forward today. Researchers publishing in the journal Nature have measured the spectrum of antihydrogen—the antimatter equivalent of hydrogen—for the first time, which should allow physicists to investigate more precisely how this exotic material differs from hydrogen. The ultimate goal is learning why antimatter is so scarce in the universe, when models suggest that the Big Bang should have produced equal amounts of matter and antimatter.
Co-author Jeffrey Hangst, a physics professor at Aarhus University, called the research at CERN a breakthrough. Six years ago, his consortium discovered how to trap a single atom of antihydrogen in a magnetic field; now they can trap 15 atoms simultaneously. Yet the painstaking trapping process has Hangst convinced that antimatter engines are impossible. Today it takes a huge accelerator to produce just a few atoms, nowhere near the amount needed for an antimatter-powered rocket.
“These people [who want to built antimatter engines] are wasting their time,” Hangst says. “It’s about making enough of it. It takes much more energy to produce than [the energy] you get out of it, and it will take longer than the age of the universe.”Yep. Dream on. To read more, click here.