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Name: Lim Min Tze

Class: S7

Topic: Antimatter - Antimatter Spacecraft


Antimatter is the opposite of normal matter. The presence of antimatter has been
theorized just recently. Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc2 has been revised and it
was said that Einstein did not consider the possibility of the mass could have
negative properties as well as positive. The equation E = + or - mc2 allowed for the
existence of anti-particles. The existences of some anti-particles have been proven
by scientists. These anti-particles are mirror images of normal matter. Each anti-
particle has its electrical charges reversed and it has the same mass as its
corresponding particle.

An antimatter spacecraft for example an antimatter rocket is a proposed type of

rocket which uses antimatter as its power source. Antimatter is the most potent fuel
known. Tens of milligrams of antimatter will do while tons of chemical fuels are
needed to propel a human mission to Mars. Thrust is provided when an antimatter is
injected into a target of normal matter and the resulting reaction products would be
vented through a magnetic nozzle. Another conventional approach is by injecting the
antimatter into a tungsten block, producing heat. The heat is then used to heat a
propellant directly, a process similar to how a nuclear thermal rocket operates. The
heat produced can also be used to generate electricity to run other propulsion
mechanism. Lastly, a nuclear photonic rocket involves heating up such a tungsten
block or other material so it emits light. The photons would then be reflected
backwards by a curved mirror and thus accelerate the spacecraft forwards.

The advantage of this type of spacecraft is that antimatter, when annihilates with
matter, converts its mass to energy completely. This reaction is very efficient so it
produces far more energy for fuel consumed than fission or fusion. A few

However, antimatter is difficult to obtain. Particle accelerators have been used to

produce a few atoms of antihydrogen, but this method is too expensive to be
practical at this time. Also, some antimatter reactions produce blasts of high energy
gamma rays. Gamma rays are like X-rays on steroids. Matter can be penetrated and
molecules in cells can be broken apart, so they are not healthy to be around. High-
energy gamma rays can also make the engines radioactive by fragmenting atoms of
the engine material. The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is funding a
team of researchers working on a new design for an antimatter-powered spaceship
that avoids this nasty side effect by producing gamma rays with much lower energy.
Because most of the energy of reactions of matter-antimatter is released in the X-ray
and Gamma ray spectrum, exotic mirrors similar to those used in nuclear weapons
and x-ray telescopes are required. Previous antimatter-powered spaceship designs
employed antiprotons, which produce high-energy gamma rays when they annihilate.
Gamma rays with about 400 times less energy can be produced with the usage of
positrons in the new design.