New Mexico Company Proposes Antimatter Rocket

By Michelle
May 15, 2006 - 9:12 PM

New Mexico's Positronics Research, LLC has a plan to build an antimatter-fueled rocket that could take astronauts to Mars in less than three months.

A report at National Geographic described the research, saying, "The energy source that enables the starship Enterprise to boldly go where no one has gone before has, according to one controversial new claim, moved much closer to reality." Positronics Research has just completed early studies of an antimatter rocket, which would be fueled by bringing particles and their opposites into contact, resulting in a powerful explosion producing gamma rays.

The company is named after positrons, which are the antimatter twins of electrons. It has been theorised since the 1950s that positron-electron interactions could be used to power spaceships, but positrons can only be stored in a vacuum sustained by a magnetic field because any contact with matter will trigger an explosion. Because positrons are charged and repel one another, storing them would require millions of tons of repellent electrical force in their fuel tank.

But Gerald Smith of Positronics Research, a former Penn State professor, proposed that positron atoms called positronium could be sustained to prevent instantaneous matter-antimatter annihilation. "It's not uncommon to find that the lifetime [of the enhanced positronium] is [practically] infinite," Smith said. The US Department of Defense has expressed interest in the research.

More information is available at National Geographic.

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