Fermilab was able to produce 2 nanograms of antimatter per year, but a new NASA NIAC plan by Gerald Jackson could increase this by 10 billion times to 20 grams per year with a $670 million per year energy cost antimatter factory. They also have a theoretical solution for long-term antimatter storage. They would use the antimatter to trigger nuclear fission to get propulsion up to 10% of light speed.
HBar Technologies had proposed an antimatter sail. Antiprotons would cause nuclear fission when they annihilate with the nucleons of Uranium-238 embedded in a sail. The absorption by the nucleus of one of the pi-mesons that emanate from this annihilation induces the nuclear fission. Over the past few years, improvements to the original design have brought this concept much closer to becoming a reality.
They would make antimatter snowballs.
Step 1: Grow hot anti-H2 molecules
Step 2: Form anti-H2 snowballs
Step 3: Coat snowballs with a thin layer of antilithium
Once the above steps are completed, the antimatter snowball can be stored. This will require a very good vacuum and some sort of levitation mechanism. Now, with levitation mechanisms, one has to consider the effects of vibration, cosmic rays, outgassing and potential mishaps. So far, no major roadblocks have been identified with electrostatic levitation (a technique that existed before the Millikan Oil Drop experiment).
Missions to Explore Oort Comet Cloud and Alpha Centauri
The antimatter could be used to decelerate interstellar missions or for missions explore the Kuiper Belt and Oort Comet Cloud. Scientific data from Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud object weekly flybys would start within a few years of launch.
The first stage accelerates the spacecraft to 0.1c, detaches from the second stage, and performs a smaller perpendicular burn to deflect its trajectory toward the Alpha Centauri AB binary system for a flyby of that solar system. The second stage decelerates a scientific payload and provides power and support during a decades-long period of exploration.
The first and second stages would have about one thousand, gram-scale chipcraft similar to those proposed by Breakthrough Starshot. These chipcraft are technically much more modest in every aspect, since they only operate for weeks after separation from either stage. These chipcraft are accelerated away from their originating stages in the direction transverse to the mission trajectory. The chipcraft then perform close flybys of objects on the time scale of one per week. Especially in the case of the Oort Cloud, a powerful LIDAR system is needed to illuminate, identify and track flyby candidates. This laser, which is proposed to also be the communication link back to Earth, is additionally used to accelerate the chipcraft and to periodically power (recharge) them via onboard chipcraft photovoltaics. These chipcraft also serve as planetary entry probes once in orbit around Proxima b. In addition, by judicious choice of wavelength the LIDAR system provides topographical imaging of the Proxima b surface even in the case of extensive cloud cover.
They have developed a lightweight 2-meter telescope that only weighs 500 grams which could be used to passively detect the dark comets.
They are working out the details of the linear accelerators and other components and processes of an antimatter factory. The would use colliding antiproton beams. They would get 1000X more production than Fermilab using thin targets. The thin target is optimized for antimatter production volumes while the old thick targets were for other science objectives. They would get 10 million times more antimatter production with a new superconducting linear accelerator design instead of using synchrotrons.
SOURCES- NASA NIAC, HBar Technologies
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com