What is an antimatter bomb

06.05.2009

Illuminati (Angels & Demons): All About Antimatter

In cinemas all over the world Tom Hanks fights as Robert Langdon against the secret society "Illuminati", which wants to destroy the Vatican with an antimatter bomb. The antimatter was stolen from CERN - but is that really possible? Is there any antimatter? What can you do with it? What is fact in Dan Brown's newly filmed book "Illuminati", what is fiction? Learn about the science behind the film ....

Fact: CERN really does exist


CERN is partly in Switzerland in Meyrin, a suburb of Geneva, and partly on the other side of the border in France. The research center is not far from Geneva Airport. CERN is not a Swiss research institute, but an international organization. The name CERN is derived from the French “Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire”, the “European Council for Nuclear Research”.

Fiction: building made of red bricks and scientists in white coats and with files under their arms


The idea that CERN looks like an English college or an elite American university has little to do with reality. The majority of the CERN buildings are white and concrete, and the scientists wear normal everyday clothes and rarely walk around with files under their arms.

Fact: antimatter really does exist


Yes, it really does exist, and it is routinely produced at CERN. Paul Dirac had predicted antimatter as early as 1928 in his theory of quantum mechanics; shortly afterwards, Carl Anderson discovered the first antiparticles. But CERN is not the only research institute in the world in which antimatter is produced and examined.

However, antimatter can only be stored with great difficulty, since antimatter and matter destroy each other immediately when they come into contact with each other.

Electrically charged Antiparticles can be locked in "electromagnetic bottles". These bottles can hold up to 1012 Contain (anti-) particles with the same electrical charge. However, particles with the same charge repel each other. It is therefore not possible to fill such a bottle with a large amount of antiprotons, for example, since the force of repulsion between them is stronger than the electromagnetic fields that keep them away from the walls of the bottle.

At electrically neutral Antiparticles or anti-atoms are even more difficult to store. It is not possible to hold neutral antimatter together with the help of constant electric or magnetic fields, since these fields have no effect on the particles. Scientists are working on the use of “magnetic bottles” (with inhomogeneous magnetic fields that act on the magnetic moment) or “optical traps” (with lasers), but these are still in the development phase.

Anti-electrons, also known as positrons, are already used in positron emission tomographs (PET scanners) in medical diagnostics. One day it may be possible to use antiprotons to irradiate tumors.
At CERN, however, antimatter is mainly used to study fundamental natural laws. The LHCb detector at the LHC will analyze the decays of heavy b-quarks and anti-b-quarks in detail. In addition, it is hoped that one day precision measurements will be made on anti-hydrogen atoms.

Fact: There are antimatter atoms


The team from the PS210 experiment at the Low Energy Antiproton Ring (LEAR) at CERN generated the first anti-hydrogen atoms in 1995. In 2002, tens of thousands of antimatter atoms were produced in two experiments (ATHENA and ATRAP), and then even millions. While "tens of thousands" sounds like a lot, it's still a very small amount. You would have to have 10,000,000,000,000,000 times that amount to get enough anti-hydrogen gas to fill a balloon. If it were possible to store the amount produced every day, it would take us billions of years to fill the balloon. The universe has only existed for 13.7 billion years ... Therefore, while it is a fact that antimatter atoms exist, the Illuminati scenario that there is enough of it to destroy people and cities is fiction.
  

Fiction: Antimatter as the energy source of the future


Using antimatter as an energy source is fundamentally impossible. In contrast to solar energy, coal or petroleum, there are no natural occurrences of antimatter; every single antiparticle would have to be created artificially. This would require a multiple of the energy that can be recovered as energy during the annihilation of antimatter and matter.

Antimatter can be thought of as a temporary store of energy, much like electrical energy in a rechargeable battery. The charging of the battery is reversible, with comparatively low losses. In any case, charging the battery consumes more energy than can be recovered from it.

The production of antimatter is extremely inefficient: only a tenth of a billionth (10th-10) recovered the energy used. The generation of antimatter is only useful for understanding the universe, that is, for science. If the amount of antimatter that was ever produced at CERN could be annihilated with matter, this would produce just enough energy to make an incandescent lamp glow for a few minutes.

Antimatter would only be a useful source of energy if one could find a large amount of antimatter somewhere (e.g. in a distant galaxy), much like oil and oxygen stocks on earth. But as far as we can see into space - billions of light years - the universe consists only of normal matter. Antimatter would first have to be laboriously generated.

Apparently the symmetry between matter and antimatter is not maintained at very high energies, as it was shortly after the Big Bang, because otherwise there would have to be just as much matter as antimatter in the universe. Future research could shed some light on how this asymmetry came about.

Fiction: You can make antimatter bombs


Antimatter bombs cannot be crafted. It would take billions of years to get enough antimatter for a bomb that would have the same destructive power as a "conventional" hydrogen bomb, of which we already have more than ten thousand.

What is interesting here is that scientists recognized the possibility of making an atomic bomb early on, many years before it was actually built and used. Back then, people were completely surprised. Nowadays many anticipate the invention of an antimatter bomb, but we have known for a long time that this is not feasible in practice.

Fact and fiction: Antimatter is produced at CERN, as described in the book


For the production of antiprotons, protons collide at almost the speed of light (more precisely, with a kinetic energy of approx. 25 GeV, 25 billion electron volts) on a metal block made of copper or tungsten, for example. A large number of particles emerge from these collisions, some of which are antiprotons. Only these are usable, and only if they fly in the right direction. It's like watering a single flower pot with a sprinkler that sprinkles the whole garden. We are of course always trying to use new tricks to make the yield of antiparticles more efficient, but at the elementary particle level this is extremely difficult.

Fact: There is the LHC


The LHC is an accelerator ring with a circumference of 27 kilometers that is located in a tunnel at a depth of 100 meters. The LHC, however, was not built to produce antimatter, but rather to generate enough energy density to study processes that will help us solve the greatest puzzles in physics. It is not a large amount of energy, but a tremendous one Energy density in the smallest of spaces. Every particle accelerated in the LHC has the energy of a mosquito in flight. From a purely mathematical point of view, that's not much, but the energy is condensed to a tiny point, comparable to the state that prevailed very shortly (around three billionths of a second) after the Big Bang.

The concentration of energy on a tiny point can be compared with the following example: A tall man in normal shoes and a small woman in high heels walk on the same wooden floor. The man will not leave marks, while the woman will, although lighter, leave marks as the pressure exerted by the pointy heels is much higher. This is how the LHC works: little energy is concentrated on a tiny point in order to generate a high energy density and thus to research the Big Bang.
At CERN, antimatter is primarily used to research the laws of nature. Current physical theories contain a number of statements about antimatter. However, if experiments fail to confirm these predictions, the theories must either be modified or revised. This is how scientific progress works.

Antimatter is also required for the collisions of matter and antimatter particles. When they meet, they destroy each other and generate the extremely high energy density from which other interesting particles could then emerge. This is how the Large Electron Positron Collider (LEP) worked until 2000 and this is how the Tevatron at the Fermilab near Chicago is still running today.

Fact: antimatter is safe


Antimatter is perfectly safe given the small amounts that can be produced. The amount of a few grams would be very dangerous, but it would take billions of years to produce it.

Fact and fiction: One gram of antimatter has the energy of a 20 kiloton atomic bomb


The explosive power of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima was equivalent to 20 kilotons of TNT. The explosive force of one kiloton (= 1000 tons) of TNT corresponds to an energy release of 4.2x1012 Joule (1012 is a 1 with 12 zeros, i.e. 1 million times 1 million, the abbreviation of the energy unit joule is J) For comparison: a 60 watt incandescent lamp consumes 60 joules per second (J / s).

How much energy is released when 1 gram of matter and 1 gram of antimatter destroy each other? This can be calculated as follows:
To determine the amount of energy released when 1 gram of antimatter and 1 gram of matter (2g = 0.002 kg) are destroyed, Einstein's famous formula E = mc is required2, where c is the speed of light (300,000,000 m / s):
E = 0.002 x (300,000,000)2 kg m2/ s2 = 1.8 x 1014 J = 180 x 1012 J. Da 4.2x1012 J correspond to one kiloton of TNT, 2 grams of matter-antimatter destruction are 180 / 4.2 = 42.8 kilotons, about twice as much as 20 kilotons of TNT.

This means that only half a gram of antimatter is needed to achieve the same destructive power as that of the Hiroshima bomb. Half a gram of (normal) matter is easy to get.

At CERN, quantities of around 107 (10 million) antiprotons produced per second. There are 6x10 in one gram of anti-hydrogen23 Antiprotons. How long it takes to make one gram is easy to calculate: you would need 6x1023/107= 6x1016 Seconds. A year has 365 (days) x 24 (hours) x 60 (minutes) x 60 (seconds) = around 3x107 Seconds, i.e. it takes about 6x1016 / 3x107 = 2x109 = 2 billion years! It's hard to imagine someone waiting so long. CERN is just 55 years old.

Fact: The web was invented at CERN


The World Wide Web was created at CERN, invented in March 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee. More

Fiction: CERN owns an X-33 spaceplane


No. “Unfortunately,” says CERN.
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