Simply, no. Currently, making antimatter takes about a billion
times as much energy to do as you can get back when you actually use
the stuff. This is not
cost effective. Nor can it be done very quickly or in a small facility.
According to Gerald Gabrielse, a Harvard professor who is doing
research on the production and storage of antihydrogen (a form of
antimatter), even if you could collect all of the antiprotons ever made
(by humans), you couldn't even heat up a cup of coffee. In regards to
space flight, he says:
"Making antimatter fuel for one rocket is theoretically possible.
But I don't see it happening anytime soon. There are significant
problems I don't know how to solve. A fuel that requires more energy to
make than it releases is not much of a fuel source. It's pretty clear
no one is going to make a rocket engine fueled by antimatter in the
next 10 years."
All in all, it's a nice idea, and one that's currently being looked
at. But for the time being, actually making it work is a job for
science fiction writers, not scientists.
(republished on 07/20/06)