Roadmap to Increase Antimatter Production by 10 Billion Times

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

40 thoughts on “Roadmap to Increase Antimatter Production by 10 Billion Times”

  1. Ye of little faith. Storage of antimatter has never been a problem. Economic storage and economic production has been, and that is a matter of innovation. Much has happened in this field which does not come to the fore in this one article. Besides, there is quasi no funding taboo with regards to innovation in anti matter, while there is a big funding (committee) taboo with regards to anything nuclear.

    Oh, and even antimatter production is simpler than nuclear fission reactors. That is why antimatter was discovered and put to use first, starting in ~1932. So the analogy, which should be reversed because steamships have always been simpler than an iPhone, also doesn't work.

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  2. That's kind of like saying that an iPhone is simpler than a 10 000 tonne steam ship.

    It's smaller and easier to make one in 2020, especially given that we already have the chip fabs etc. built and ready to use. But to a bunch of Engineers in 1890, the iPhone would be an impossible project, the steam ship was not.

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  3. Has anyone actually run into red tape with antimatter research? Cite?

    I would expect that antimatter production is still multiple orders of magnitude smaller than anything that could make an audible pop if you let it all blow up at once. A store bought fire cracker would be more deadly.

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  4. We have already built and tested nuclear rocket engines. We don't know how to produce useable quantities of anti-matter at a cost less than the entire GDP of the world. And we don't know how to store it safely and how to use it.

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  5. Antimatter devices are simpler than nuclear rocket engines. And besides that: nuclear rocket engines belong in the category of sunk cost fallacy.

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  6. Ok…if you got the math down: How much would take you to the surface of your Mars base in the morning to be back home on Earth at the end of the work day? (~8 hour roundtrip door to door; 10 ton wet mass spacecraft).

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  7. We need to stop treating R&D spending like it's a finite resource and completely ignoring certain technologies just because we don't know if there's a short term payoff. Antimatter research is just as valid as lasers. 50 years ago people probably thought it was stupid to invest in lasers but now the investment is paying off. Technology is the only way to increase per capita economic growth in the long run. Instead of treating technology like a zero-sum game, we should find ways to increase technology funding in as many fields as possible.

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  8. Ten billion times nothing is still nothing. Spend the money on making better lasers: more power, higher efficiency, and shorter pulses.

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  9. Alcubierre stuff and the following iterations are pretty interesting, in theory, but there's a lot left to work out which might not be possible. Specifically, while we can make some negative mass-like effects, we can't actually make negative mass, so it's unclear if we'll ever figure out a way to make a warp drive out of it. And antimatter, despite what it says on the tin, is not actually negative mass. You can store a lot of energy in a bottle with it, but not warp space in the way that we'd like.

    Still, the way that, every decade or so, we keep recalculating it an order of magnitude closer to achievable does make one wonder.

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  10. From the video, sounds like you'll need to slam the anti-matter together with normal matter to get more than a fizzle (and a bunch of radiation, I presume). So you might be able to make a gun with antimatter positioned at the end of the barrel, to be struck by a bullet?

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  11. Warp drive still appears to be theoretically impossible. See the wiki quote I pasted in response to ssbaker305 above.

    I'm no physicist, but my understanding is that antimatter's main benefit is the tremendous amount of energy that you can harvest from it. Something like 10 orders of magnitude greater than what you get with chemical rocket fuel. So basically, your getting 10 billion times more energy from a gram of antimatter then from gram of chemical rocket fuel. So perhaps a gram of antimatter could propel you to Alpha Centauri at a reasonable speed in a reasonably sized ship, and with the added benefit that you don't have to carry tons of chemical fuel. Again, not a physicist so I defer to the experts.

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  12. From Wikipedia

    Einstein's theory of special relativity states that energy and mass are interchangeable, and speed of light travel is impossible for material objects that, unlike photons, have a non-zero rest mass. The problem of a material object exceeding light speed is that an infinite amount of kinetic energy would be required to travel at exactly the speed of light. This can theoretically be solved by warping space to move an object instead of increasing the kinetic energy of the object to do so.

    In 1994, physicist Miguel Alcubierre formulated a theoretical solution, called the Alcubierre drive, for faster-than-light travel which models the warp drive concept. Calculations found that such a model would require prohibitive amounts of negative energy or mass.

    In 2018, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency made public a 2010 report that surveyed multiple different approaches to faster-than-light travel. Caltech professor Sean Carroll, who reviewed the report, explained that, while the theories were legitimate, they did not represent "something that's going to connect with engineering anytime soon, probably anytime ever.

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  13. "As an experimental physicist, he invented and developed the technology
    of storage rings that is now the basis of all highenergy particle
    accelerators."

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  14. So, what could we actually do with 20 grams of antimatter? Where does that get us in terms of creating some kind of exotic space drive? I know Sonny White thinks he's got Alcubierre's theory worked down to only needing energy the size of the Voyager probes for his warp drive concept. But, it's the type of energy that matters, isn't it?

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  15. Why not first do something simple like a space nuclear reactor or a nuclear rocket engine. You must first learn to crawl before you can run.

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  16. That article was brought here a year or so ago.

    It seem quite more economical and less risky to mine it from a planet's magnetosphere, out there in outer space and not somewhere down here.

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  17. I recently read an article that stated that, instead of producing the antimatter, we should just mine it from the magnetic fields of Jupiter and Saturn instead. It was estimated we could theoretically mine a couple of kilograms per year using this method. I wish I could remember where I read this so I could contribute it to this forum, sorry guys.

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  18. Attempting to hold large amounts of antimatter within your own country for indefinite periods of time is probably one of those things we call a "self-correcting behavior."

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  19. An antimatter bomb isn't going to be a cost effective weapon for normal military purposes, but given the tiny size for the yield, it would likely be good as a smuggled weapon. When you can fit a kiloton equivalent bomb into a tourist's camera, which can still take pictures, the applications for decapitating strikes are obvious.

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  20. Nuclear W80 warheads are already in the 80 cm x 30 cm size so they could easily fit in a (heavy) shopping cart and yield 150 kilotons explosions. With antimatter you can probably have explosions the size of the one happened in Beirut (1-2 kitlotons) from something that could fit in a soda can.

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  21. Hmm, I concede that you guys are probably right … fortunately. However another 100 years of improvement in anti-matter production and containment technology could lead to a very big blast from something the size of a shopping cart.

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  22. There is an enormous difference between reaching 0.1c and 1c, the speed of light is an asymptotic speed limit for massive objects so while you can reach 0.1c to reach 1c you either need to have infinite acceleration for a finite time or finite acceleration for an infinite time. In both cases you need infinite energy and this is independent of the kind of energy source you use

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  23. The thing with antimatter is that you do not have a critical mass limit so in theory you can make very small bombs. In practice I assume it will be several orders of magnitude more expensive

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  24. Lithium? Where have I heard about that in relation to light speed drive before? Oh, yeah, it was from the dilithium crystals hypothesized on the old Star Trek series, now conveniently explained in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dilithium_(Star_Trek)! It's about time we got cracking on this 54-year old technology!
    More seriously, we've been told since Einstein that to go the speed of light it would take the mass of the universe. Then, Michio Kaku and Miguel Alcubierre say we don't need nearly so much mass, maybe Jupiter-sized, or maybe much less, to go speed of light: https://sciencevibe.com/2019/08/25/you-can-not-believe-how-fast-it-is-kaku-says-its-a-passport-to-the-universe/.
    Now, we have near-reality anti-matter drives capable of .1c. How soon until the fictional realm of FTL travel meets the real realm of FTL travel in the light-speed singularity without impossible levels of mass? Seems to me if we can get the production cost down and the storage up, there is little limit to the size of the starship and then, it's off to the nearest star in manned starships!
    Exciting times we live in!

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  25. Lithium? Where have I heard about that in relation to light speed drive before? Oh, yeah, it was from the dilithium crystals hypothesized on the old Star Trek series, now conveniently explained in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dilithium_(Star_Trek)! It's about time we got cracking on this 54-year old technology!
    More seriously, we've been told since Einstein that to go the speed of light it would take the mass of the universe. Then, Michio Kaku and Miguel Alcubierre say we don't need nearly so much mass, maybe Jupiter-sized, or maybe much less, to go speed of light: https://sciencevibe.com/2019/08/25/you-can-not-believe-how-fast-it-is-kaku-says-its-a-passport-to-the-universe/.
    Now, we have near-reality anti-matter drives capable of .1c. How soon until the fictional realm of FTL travel meets the real realm of FTL travel in the light-speed singularity without impossible levels of mass? Seems to me if we can get the production cost down and the storage up, there is little limit to the size of the starship and then, it's off to the nearest star in manned starships!
    Exciting times we live in!

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  26. I'm not so sure about that. Is it really cheaper to create an antimatter bomb than a "vanilla" fission bomb? And what about robustness, how does that compare. You have to keep the "anti-ice" in constant levitation and refrigidation. How does that "blend" with missile deployment?

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  27. That bit about the telescope mirror actually is kinda interesting. How are they getting parabolic deflection in what appears to be a flat mirror?

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