Jump to content
Jett_Quasar

Antimatter - The Starship Fuel of Champions

Recommended Posts

Interplanetary and interstellar ships require vast amounts of energy for propulsion.  There was a previous thread looking at nuclear power but antimatter is by far the most concentrated form of energy in the Universe.  A couple grams of the stuff will put the Space Shuttle in orbit, and several Kilograms can accelerate it to a significant percentage of the speed of light.

 

It would require a high level of technology to build a magnetic containment unit (or E/M bottle) using superconducters and to cryogenically cool the anti-hydrogen atoms to maintain a liquid state.  Also the unit would need to be extremely reliable since any power interruption would result in catastrophic failure of the unit.

 

The interesting thing is that you can create antimatter with a particle accelerator, but it's actually more efficient to collect it from the radiation belts surrounding planets.  A large electromagnetic trap could be set up in planetary orbit and used as a "gas station" to refuel starships in space.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It would require a high level of technology to build a magnetic containment unit (or E/M bottle) using superconducters and to cryogenically cool the anti-hydrogen atoms to maintain a liquid state.  Also the unit would need to be extremely reliable since any power interruption would result in catastrophic failure of the unit.

 

I think it should have less reliability, considering the fact that when Antimatter touches matter bad things happen, and also the power output is enormous and, quite frankly I think it'll be a bit OP when the technology first becomes available to us in game. Gotta balance the massive power boost with volatility. However, as our technology grows, I see no reason why players couldn't research a system that's more stable in handling the material, making it safer and thus more popular.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah the offset for the massive amount of power provided by antimatter is that it's very expensive, and difficult to handle.  A large, well-shielded containment vessel will be required that needs advanced materials like superconducters and cryogenic units as well as a multi-redundant power source.  Everything has it's price.

 

As far as the antimatter unit getting damaged in battle, well that would be a risk, but it didn't seem to affect the crew of the Enterprise...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This has me wondering what other forms of fuel and propulsion we might discover on alien planets or via alien science.

An evaporating black hole, for example! Xp

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I always find these discussions interesting because the reality always falls short of the idea.  While technically everything posted so far is correctlogically it is also wrong.   And before everybody blows up on me.  Let me explain.  

 

Antimatter is a tricky subject because it tends to be used as a catchall term.  There are many different kinds of antimatter and they all behave differently.  

First off what kind of antimatter are we talking about?  Positrons and antiprotons?  You can trap them with something called a 'Penning trap' and no cooling is needed because sub-atomic particles can't be condensed anyway.  There is no such thing as 'liquid' electricity for instance.  But these very reasons also mean I could never contain a lot of free antimatter sub-atomic particles.

 

Superconductors make the transfer of energy more efficient, not the storage.  Storage is easy.  If sub-atomic particles have little to no place to go they just won't go anywhere.

 

Antihydrogen?  Since they are neutrally charged you need a 'Loffe trap'.  It's basically a magnetic 'bowl' with antihydrogen rolling towards the center.  I could cool this and condense it into liquid.  Largely pointless by that point, it just saves space and in a vacuum, only the total mass and inertia of an object counts towards movement, not its volume. (I reserve judgement for its use in atmosphere.)

 

Neutrinos?  Have no charge (and almost no mass) at all so no anti-particles.  Or theoretically, are both particles AND anti-particles.  Wrap your head around that one.

 

Though the energy output of 1 kilogram of antimatter is equal to roughly 43 MEGATONS of TNT, (just short of the largest nuke ever set off) it is achieved through annihilation meaning that most of the energy given off is photonic in nature and isn't as usable.  Positrons give off mostly gamma rays when annihilated for instance.  Dangerous to be sure but not directly useful for propulsion.  Antiproton annihilation happens unequally producing mesons that further degrade into gamma rays, electrons, positrons, and neutrinos.  Once again dangerous as hell but less useful for direct propulsion.

 

When scientists talk about its applications for space propulsion they are talking about two different methods.  The first, setting off an antimatter reaction in certain isotopes (high-grade uranium for instance) makes a nuclear reaction more efficient and by extension more powerful.  For this application, you don't need a lot of antimatter to do it. So gathering what little antimatter is captured by a planet's magnetic field (called Van Allen radiation belts) now becomes feasible and one no longer has to spend a million billion (not an exaggeration) dollars to produce a single gram of antimatter artificially.  But this is not the type of reaction you use for power or propulsion.  THIS IS A BOMB!

 

The second is the annihilation of protons and antiprotons.  Most of the energy once again is photonic (gamma rays) but some (a relatively small amount) of the particles that come about due to the unequal annihilation will be in the form of mesons.  Some of these particles (another relatively small amount) hold a charge that can be deflected magnetically and can provide propulsion.  However as mentioned above I can never contain any large quantity of antiprotons so this method is slow and inefficient.  It is relatively easy to gather what you need as you fly through space however and therefore, ideal for lightweight long-range space missions where time is less of a factor.

 

 

P.S.  I am so sorry I went into teacher mode.

Edited by Wardion2000

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[...] antimatter is by far the most concentrated form of energy in the Universe.

 

always when i read that i become somewhat depressed, because thats just not true. but nearly everybody says that.

Antimatter has as much energy as matter, its nothing special except that its "anti" and because of reasons the universe is dominated by normal matter, thats all. The energy you are talking about is "created" (or rather transformed as we all know) when matter and antimatter annihilates each other and the mass is converted to energy. If we had a technology that can completely break down normal matter then that would be as efficient as using antimatter (only much safer)

 

Additionally there is energy that is far more concentrated than normal- or antimatter, in neutronstars matter breaks down to single quarks, making the density of energy far higher. In black holes its even more dense even tho we sadly don't know anything about the state of matter inside, but the density of energy is exponentially higher than in neutron stars.

 

But to say something constructive, i think in terms of antimatter we don't have to refere to much to the present, as the research concerning production and containment is slow and pretty much in its infancy stage. I would imagine, that we are able to find better means to create antimatter than using colliders in the future, thus making it viable for a hard sci-fi mmorpg.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Wardion2000


Anti-matter as a fuel is usually considered as an antihydrogen, since hydrogen is freely floating in space and is easily extracted from comets and ice belts. Also, antihydrogen is the "easiest" to procure, for obvious, one antiproton one positron reasons. Cool? :P 


And just because a pilot in space flies his Millenium Pidgeon, you can't expect them to have a PhD in nuclear physics :P The same way a jet-fighter pilot doesn't have a degree in aerospace engineering, or an air-carrier driver having any knoweldge on how the reactor works.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I always find these discussions interesting because the reality always falls short of the idea.  While technically everything posted so far is correctlogically it is also wrong.   And before everybody blows up on me.  Let me explain.  

 

Antimatter is a tricky subject because it tends to be used as a catchall term.  There are many different kinds of antimatter and they all behave differently.  

First off what kind of antimatter are we talking about?  Positrons and antiprotons?  You can trap them with something called a 'Penning trap' and no cooling is needed because sub-atomic particles can't be condensed anyway.  There is no such thing as 'liquid' electricity for instance.  But these very reasons also mean I could never contain a lot of free antimatter sub-atomic particles.

 

Superconductors make the transfer of energy more efficient, not the storage.  Storage is easy.  If sub-atomic particles have little to no place to go they just won't go anywhere.

 

Antihydrogen?  Since they are neutrally charged you need a 'Loffe trap'.  It's basically a magnetic 'bowl' with antihydrogen rolling towards the center.  I could cool this and condense it into liquid.  Largely pointless by that point, it just saves space and in a vacuum, only the total mass and inertia of an object counts towards movement, not its volume. (I reserve judgement for its use in atmosphere.)

 

Neutrinos?  Have no charge (and almost no mass) at all so no anti-particles.  Or theoretically, are both particles AND anti-particles.  Wrap your head around that one.

 

Though the energy output of 1 kilogram of antimatter is equal to roughly 43 MEGATONS of TNT, (just short of the largest nuke ever set off) it is achieved through annihilation meaning that most of the energy given off is photonic in nature and isn't as usable.  Positrons give off mostly gamma rays when annihilated for instance.  Dangerous to be sure but not directly useful for propulsion.  Antiproton annihilation happens unequally producing mesons that further degrade into gamma rays, electrons, positrons, and neutrinos.  Once again dangerous as hell but less useful for direct propulsion.

 

When scientists talk about its applications for space propulsion they are talking about two different methods.  The first, setting off an antimatter reaction in certain isotopes (high-grade uranium for instance) makes a nuclear reaction more efficient and by extension more powerful.  For this application, you don't need a lot of antimatter to do it. So gathering what little antimatter is captured by a planet's magnetic field (called Van Allen radiation belts) now becomes feasible and one no longer has to spend a million billion (not an exaggeration) dollars to produce a single gram of antimatter artificially.  But this is not the type of reaction you use for power or propulsion.  THIS IS A BOMB!

 

The second is the annihilation of protons and antiprotons.  Most of the energy once again is photonic (gamma rays) but some (a relatively small amount) of the particles that come about due to the unequal annihilation will be in the form of mesons.  Some of these particles (another relatively small amount) hold a charge that can be deflected magnetically and can provide propulsion.  However as mentioned above I can never contain any large quantity of antiprotons so this method is slow and inefficient.  It is relatively easy to gather what you need as you fly through space however and therefore, ideal for lightweight long-range space missions where time is less of a factor.

 

 

P.S.  I am so sorry I went into teacher mode.

 

I'm not an expert and you seem to know a great deal about this subject so I'll take your word for it.

 

But it has no bearing on the game mechanics. It doesn't need to run according to true scientific principles (at least not all the time). This is Sci-Fi, so we just use technobabble that sounds right to the average Joe and then move on. Star Trek used antimatter. Stargate had a non-existent super element. And they were both great to enjoy even though they had nonsense science.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK so for the purposes of using an energy source for space travel propulsion (and in keeping with the laws of physics and some level of realism within the game), I though that there should be an arm of the tech tree that includes antimatter collection, storage and propulsion systems.  This would be in addition to or in combination with other forms of energy generation like fusion.

 

So for larger capital ships, there is enough room to put fusion reactors on board, but smaller probes and even star fighters might want to use antimatter since a containment unit could be made much more compact and the engines would be much simpler as well.

 

There are of course limitations to it;s use since antimatter byproducts as highly ionizing radiation.  Notwithstanding those limitations I though the antimatter tech tree could include: a particle accelerator for generating antimatter, or a large collector that would reside in orbit that collects antimatter from radiation belts that surround the planet.  These would need to be combined with a containment unit and a stable source of power.  Propulsion systems could be unique to using antimatter as a fuel, or convert it into energy for use in generic rocket engines.

 

So in total there would be about 6 different items in the antimatter tech tree - two for collection, a couple more for containment, and several different classes of engines, and maybe a power converter just to round it out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There have been for ages now.

As the references section of wikipedias antimatter rocket article shows :V

 

Also: what do you need such an laser array for in an antimatter engine? o.0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There have been for ages now.

As the references section of wikipedias antimatter rocket article shows :V

 

Also: what do you need such an laser array for in an antimatter engine? o.0

 

It's a method of control.  You would use neutrally charged lasers to deliver exactly the same amounts of matter and antimatter together.  Otherwise, you might have antimatter left over and it would annihilate in places you don't want....  Like your thruster nozzles.  Also, too much matter and antimatter together wouldn't work. Think of it like two bricks, one of matter and one of antimatter.  Slam them together and only the surfaces would annihilate each other and push the rest of the bricks apart.  Not very useful but it would certainly be fun to watch.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a method of control.  You would use neutrally charged lasers to deliver exactly the same amounts of matter and antimatter together.  Otherwise, you might have antimatter left over and it would annihilate in places you don't want....  Like your thruster nozzles.  Also, too much matter and antimatter together wouldn't work. Think of it like two bricks, one of matter and one of antimatter.  Slam them together and only the surfaces would annihilate each other and push the rest of the bricks apart.  Not very useful but it would certainly be fun to watch.

Let's petition a gameplay featuring antimatter containment units sabotage. We'll call it

 

 

Operation : Fourth of July

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a method of control. You would use neutrally charged lasers to deliver exactly the same amounts of matter and antimatter together. Otherwise, you might have antimatter left over and it would annihilate in places you don't want.... Like your thruster nozzles. Also, too much matter and antimatter together wouldn't work. Think of it like two bricks, one of matter and one of antimatter. Slam them together and only the surfaces would annihilate each other and push the rest of the bricks apart. Not very useful but it would certainly be fun to watch.

You know that lasers have no charge... no?

So "neutrally charged laser" makes no sense at all

 

just link me the source then i'll have less aneurisms

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Though the energy output of 1 kilogram of antimatter is equal to roughly 43 MEGATONS of TNT, (just short of the largest nuke ever set off) it is achieved through annihilation meaning that most of the energy given off is photonic in nature and isn't as usable.  Positrons give off mostly gamma rays when annihilated for instance.  Dangerous to be sure but not directly useful for propulsion.  Antiproton annihilation happens unequally producing mesons that further degrade into gamma rays, electrons, positrons, and neutrinos.  Once again dangerous as hell but less useful for direct propulsion.

 

This could work with some handwaving. An antiproton reaction chamber is lined with "gamma ray solar panels" to convert the photons into electricity. Electricity is then used to power some sort of high thrust electric drive as well as other ship systems.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You know that lasers have no charge... no?

So "neutrally charged laser" makes no sense at all

 

just link me the source then i'll have less aneurisms

 

I see where you are coming from.  A laser in general, cannot conduct an electromagnetic charge. There are exceptions. (Link here) However, a laser is in itself a beam of electromagnetic radiation with its own fields and those fields themselves have a "charge" (positive, negative, or neutral).  These fields react differently than simple 'does it or does it not conduct'.  (Link here)

 

A couple of examples, a CO2 laser will:

 

  • Pass through air
  • Cut metal
  • But finds water to be opaque

 

A gamma ray laser being neutrally charged on the other hand will:

 

  • Pass through (most) magnetic and electromagnetic shielding
  • Cut through anything else
  • Finds nothing (so far) opaque

 

P.S.  When I refer to it as "opaque" I mean the beam will not alter the molecular structure of what is struck it will instead be converted.  Like when visible spectrum light hits something that is 'black' the photons are absorbed and converted into kinetic excitation e.g. "heat".

Edited by Wardion2000

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This could work with some handwaving. An antiproton reaction chamber is lined with "gamma ray solar panels" to convert the photons into electricity. Electricity is then used to power some sort of high thrust electric drive as well as other ship systems.

 

That would work with almost no handwaving. (Just the gamma ray solar panel) :wub:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not an expert and you seem to know a great deal about this subject so I'll take your word for it.

 

But it has no bearing on the game mechanics. It doesn't need to run according to true scientific principles (at least not all the time). This is Sci-Fi, so we just use technobabble that sounds right to the average Joe and then move on. Star Trek used antimatter. Stargate had a non-existent super element. And they were both great to enjoy even though they had nonsense science.

 

To quote Mark Twain "Get your facts first, then you can DISTORT them as you please."

 

If it just "sounds" right.  You will inevitably say something that doesn't "sound" right.  It won't necessarily make good science fiction (even for a game).  I don't mind technobabble.  Sure Star Trek used technobabble and it even worked for a time (original series mostly).  But then they just made things up.  The first time on Star Trek Voyager I heard "We'll escape through the crack in the event horizon!"  The entirely IMAGINARY boundary from which no form of radiation can escape a black hole.  I face palmed.  They could have just as easily said "We'll use magic to escape!"  and it would have made as much sense and been just as relevant.  There's Sci-Fi and then there's make believe.  I would prefer in-game reasoning to steer away from the latter seeing that those of us who are drawn to Sci-Fi (even in game form) probably know a little about science.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I see where you are coming from. A laser in general, cannot conduct an electromagnetic charge. There are exceptions. (Link here) However, a laser is in itself a beam of electromagnetic radiation with its own fields and those fields themselves have a "charge" (positive, negative, or neutral). These fields react differently than simple 'does it or does it not conduct'. (Link here)

 

A couple of examples, a CO2 laser will:

 

  • Pass through air
  • Cut metal
  • But finds water to be opaque

A gamma ray laser being neutrally charged on the other hand will:

  • Pass through (most) magnetic and electromagnetic shielding
  • Cut through anything else
  • Finds nothing (so far) opaque

P.S. When I refer to it as "opaque" I mean the beam will not alter the molecular structure of what is struck it will instead be converted. Like when visible spectrum light hits something that is 'black' the photons are absorbed and converted into kinetic excitation e.g. "heat".

 

no laser can conduct any charge. including the link with the wrong title.

the laser in your link is created using a new process which the author somehow interpreted as the laser transporting charge in its beam.

its normal UV light created using a new process.

no charge transport there.

 

 

your "more complex" point is something else as well.

the laser itself doesnt conduct there as well, but it ionises the air (or any other medium they happen to use) and the ionised medium then becomes a conductor.

whichs path coincides with the path of the laser beam.

no charged light there as well.

 

 

the EM fields in IR lasers and gamma lasers are in nothing different but the frequency with which they oscillate.

there is no difference in "charge" between them at all.

 

very simple source for that light has no charge:

wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photon Electric charge 0

 

Edit: an electrical field is no charge

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fusion is the next highest level of power generation. It already produces massive amounts of power and heat.

 

Antimatter being as powerful as it is requires massive levels of stability to maintain. Though an expensive build, antimatter could be what must be collected to run star gates. Though primary purpose for such reactors would have to be super-capitals and space stations for it to be a viable energy source to house and run.

 

Great ideas though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

no laser can conduct any charge. including the link with the wrong title.

the laser in your link is created using a new process which the author somehow interpreted as the laser transporting charge in its beam.

its normal UV light created using a new process.

no charge transport there.

 

 

your "more complex" point is something else as well.

the laser itself doesnt conduct there as well, but it ionises the air (or any other medium they happen to use) and the ionised medium then becomes a conductor.

whichs path coincides with the path of the laser beam.

no charged light there as well.

 

 

the EM fields in IR lasers and gamma lasers are in nothing different but the frequency with which they oscillate.

there is no difference in "charge" between them at all.

 

very simple source for that light has no charge: 

wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photon

Electric charge 0

 

 

You are correct Cornflakes.  On all your points.  You possess knowledge not normally held by those I typically have discussions with about physics. My explanations were not meant for yourself in particular and I would love to discuss high energy physics and their applications with you.....  But perhaps here is not the best place.

 

Personal messenger later?   :)

 

But just to let you know I'm not just talking out of my @$$.

 

The article which I provided a link to first, glosses over the science that shows the lasers ease to oscillate inhomogeneously and its fluctuating weak field direction due to slight changes in wavelength when the polaritons decay.  These properties have great applications as a ponderomotive force......  I admit I should have found a better news article on this particular laser.  But my options were limited without going over the entire published report and ALL the science myself.  And no one is going to read that here.  :mellow:

 

I'm also getting the impression you think I am purposefully trying to equate "charge" with "conduct" or 'electrically charged' maybe.  Though I may be misreading you there.  I am not trying to do this.  In fact, the purpose of my post was exactly the opposite.  Sorry if I didn't make that clear.  :unsure:

 

I AM trying to equate "charge" with spin (positive spin = normal matter, negative spin = antimatter, no spin = Majorana particle).  But only as an example.  The same way I would explain an Einstein-Rosen bridge as a "hole in the fabric of the universe" rather than a topological feature of spacetime where two separate points intersect.  I get nods with one explanation and head scratches with the other.  :huh:

 

If I write about physics on a forum like this, I will make a LOT of analogous statements or comparable explanations.  Like the gamma ray laser I mentioned.  It is technically not a laser since you stimulate the atomic nuclei of a nuclear isomer and not an excited molecular state or some other ion derivative as a whole.  It would be correctly called an "Induced Gamma Emission".  But even with this, many physicists still call it a gamma ray laser or graser even.  So when I write about it here I'm gonna dub it a "laser" of some kind.

 

 

I wonder how many heads I will give cause to scratch with this post.  :wacko:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...