Antimatter is not just the fictional fuel powering the Enterprise during its journeys on Star Trek. Quite the contrary, antimatter is something that scientists are currently utilizing. In fact, antihydrogen was created in 1995 (although it didn’t last long).
Antimatter, simply, is matter with its electrical charge reversed. For example, antiprotons are like protons but with a negative charge.
Primordial antimatter has yet to be observed in the universe, but antiparticles are being created in particle accelerator labs. They can even be trapped and stored for weeks at a time. For example, positrons (a type of antiparticle) are now being produced for numerous studies thanks to CERN.
But storing antimatter can be challenging. Upon meeting, matter and antimatter annihilate one another, leaving behind other subatomic particles. This process results in an explosion that emits pure radiation traveling at the speed of light. It’s important, then, to keep antimatter away from ordinary matter. In hydrogen’s case, scientists take advantage of antihydrogen’s magnetic properties to trap them long enough to study them.
While we don’t know everything about antimatter, we have learned quite a bit so far, including these 10 fun facts.