The only difference between antimatter and regular matter is that it possesses the opposing electric charge. For instance, a positron is the antimatter companion of an electron, which has a negative charge. An electron-like particle with a positive charge is known as a positron. Neutrons and other electric-charge-free particles are frequently the spouses of their own antimatter. However, it is still unknown whether the mysterious neutrinos, which are likewise neutral, are their own antiparticles. Antimatter is real, despite the fact that it sounds like something from science fiction. After the Big Bang, matter and antimatter were both generated. However, antimatter is uncommon in the cosmos of today, and scientists are unsure of why.
Using ultra-high-speed collisions at massive particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider, which is located outside of Geneva and run by CERN, humans have produced antimatter particles (the European Organization for Nuclear Research). The antimatter counterpart of the element hydrogen, antihydrogen, is produced in a number of CERN experiments. Antihelium, which is helium's antimatter counterpart, is the most complicated antimatter element created to date. Antiparticles are also periodically created spontaneously throughout the cosmos. However, antimatter doesn't last very long in a matter-dominated cosmos like ours because when matter and antimatter collide, they destroy each other and create energy.
The riddle of why the cosmos even exists is also centered on antimatter. Only energy was present in the early Big Bang seconds. Particles of both matter and antimatter were created when the cosmos cooled and expanded. Scientists have performed exceedingly accurate measurements of the characteristics of particles and antiparticles and discovered that both exhibit the same behavior. Therefore, all of the matter and antimatter created at the beginning of time should have destroyed on contact and left nothing behind if they were created in equal numbers and behaved the same way.
A significant puzzle is how matter overcame antimatter. According to one idea, enough matter than antimatter was produced at the start of the universe so that even after their mutual destruction, there was still enough matter to build stars, galaxies, and eventually everything on Earth. The difference would have been really small. According to Space.com, a Live Science sister site, less than 1 in 1 billion ordinary particles would have survived the pandemonium and gone on to produce all the matter around us today. The answer to this conundrum may lie in the discovery that the neutrino—a tiny, ethereal particle that scarcely interacts with other matter—is essentially its own antiparticle. According to this theory, at the beginning of time, a small percentage of neutrinos would have been able to change from antimatter to matter, possibly resulting in a modest matter imbalance. The neutrino's identity as its own antiparticle has been investigated through experiments, but the results have been ambiguous thus far.
While attempting to connect quantum mechanics, which describes subatomic particles, and Einstein's theory of relativity, British physicist Paul Dirac made the prediction of antimatter in 1928. Dirac was interested in the answers to an equation that characterized the motion of an electron moving at a speed close to that of light. Dirac's equation can have two solutions, one for an electron with positive energy and one for an electron with negative energy, much as the equation x2 = 4 can have two alternative solutions (x = 2 or x = minus 2).
Dirac was initially apprehensive about disclosing his findings. He gradually warmed around to them though, saying that each particle in the universe ought to have a mirror-image counterpart that acted similarly but had the opposite charge. A few years later, American physicist Carl Anderson of the California Institute of Technology made the discovery of the proton. Anderson was researching the incredibly intense cosmic rays that arrive from space and strike Earth's atmosphere, creating a shower of other particles. Anderson saw a trace of an object in his detector with the same mass as an electron but a positive charge. According to the American Institute of Physics, an editor at the publication Physical Review proposed the term positron for the particle.
Dirac and Anderson both won the Nobel Prize in physics for their contributions to this discovery, Anderson in 1936 and Dirac in 1933. Engineers have hypothesized that antimatter-powered spacecraft would be an effective approach to explore the cosmos since fusing matter and antimatter produces energy. Although NASA has looked into the notion, there are certain drawbacks to deploying antimatter-driven spacecraft to travel to Mars. It is really pricey, to start.
According to a 2006 NASA article by Gerald Smith of Positronics Research LLC in Santa Fe, New Mexico, "a ballpark estimate to manufacture the 10 milligrams of positrons needed for a human Mars journey is about 250 million dollars using technology that is now under development." Even if the price may appear exorbitant, it still costs around $10,000 per pound to launch an object into orbit, making the launch of a huge spacecraft with a crew of people extremely pricey.
More recently, NASA scientists(opens in new tab) have investigated the feasibility of sending a probe to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, utilizing the energy generated by matter-antimatter collisions. The energy from the collisions would enable the object to accelerate to 10% the speed of light and then slow down sufficiently to spend decades perhaps exploring Alpha Centauri.