Please look at our other answers on Antimatter to find out what it
is and how it is created. Antimatter isn't really commercially useful,
but producing it in physics laboratories and studying it helps us
understand the particles, forces and symmetries of nature. One big,
important question is: "Why doesn't antimatter behave exactly the same
way as matter?" Understanding the answer to that question helps us
understand the answer to "Why is most of the stuff we can see in the
universe made of matter -- where did all the antimatter go?"
In high-energy particle collisions, equal amounts of matter and
antimatter are created. We suspect that the same things happened
shortly after the big bang, some 14 billion years ago. But somehow, a
small difference in how the matter and antimatter behave left the
universe with a tiny excess of matter, and when the matter and
antimatter annihilated, just a tiny fraction of extra matter was left
over -- enough to produce all the visible stuff in the universe. We'd
like to understand how all that happened, and so we create some of it
in the lab in high-energy collisions.
Is it a good energy source? No, not really. It's more like an
energy storage medium -- it takes energy to make the stuff, and you get
your energy back when the antimatter annihilates with ordinary matter.
It's very inefficient to do this -- the collisions may radiate extra
photons, many of the high-energy particles won't collide but will miss
their targets, and storing antimatter takes special magnets and
radiofrequency cavities, all of which take lots of energy to run. It's
a good way to use up energy!
(republished on 07/20/06)