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Sci-Fi Science Technology

Design Starting For Matter-Antimatter Collider 191

Posted by samzenpus
from the dump-the-warp-core dept.
couch_warrior writes "The Register is carrying a story on the early design efforts for the next generation of high-energy particle accelerators. They will be linear, and will collide matter and antimatter in the form of electrons and positrons. The obvious question will be: once we have a matter-antimatter reactor, how long till we have warp drive, and will the Vulcans show up for a sneak-peak?"
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Design Starting For Matter-Antimatter Collider

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  • by JimboFBX (1097277) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @02:04AM (#29677977)

    The obvious question will be: once we have a matter-antimatter reactor, how long till we have warp drive, and will the Vulcans show up for a sneak-peak?"

    Maybe in a Star Trek convention...

    • Maybe in a Star Trek convention...

      Hey, don't knock it. If the lowly budget of a star trek convention can afford to have anti-matter reactors lying around, then we all can!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      I think the Romulans will beat the Vulcans; the Federation uses antimatter, the Romulan warbirds are powered by black holes. The LHC will be online before they even start building the antimatter accellerator.

      I'm amused at what the press is going to be saying when the thing is nearing completion. They worried about Earth being swallowed by mini-black holes generated by the LHC, they'll probably have "Oh noes, antimatter! The whole solar system will blow up!!!" with the antimatter accelerators.

    • Supercollider? I just met her!
  • ZOMG (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Keptin, I'm giving you all she's got!

  • Wrong Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @02:07AM (#29677985) Journal

    The obvious question will be: once we have a matter-antimatter reactor, how long till we have warp drive, and will the Vulcans show up for a sneak-peak?"

    Actually, I think the next question would be: "Now how can get some antimatter?"

    It's my understanding that we can only manufacture ridiculously minute quantities of the stuff, and that may take more energy to make than we'll get out of it anyways.

    • Re:Wrong Question (Score:4, Insightful)

      by StrategicIrony (1183007) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @02:10AM (#29677995)

      antimatter is like molecular hydrogen as a fuel for fuel cells. It's more of a storage device of energy than it is a a way to "produce" energy.

      At this point it's terribly inefficient, but theoretically, it could be a viable means of taking an enormous amount of energy and storing it in a small place. :-)

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Tubal-Cain (1289912)
        At least you don't need to keep electromagnets powered up to store hydrogen...
        • by shentino (1139071)


          • by JosKarith (757063)
            But if the fridge shuts down then - barring some hideously stupid design choices - you would probably have enough time to eject it before it went pop...
      • by CarpetShark (865376) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @05:28AM (#29678883)

        theoretically, it could be a viable means of taking an enormous amount of energy and storing it in a small place.

        The same effect can be achieved with a swift kick to the nuts.

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        It's not obvious that the total energy density when you factor in the containment etc. will actually be all that great. Certainly you'd have to have a project which needed some absolutely mind-blowing energy density requirements to justify the cost.

    • Re:Wrong Question (Score:5, Informative)

      by 1s44c (552956) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @02:17AM (#29678021)

      Actually, I think the next question would be: "Now how can get some antimatter?"

      It's my understanding that we can only manufacture ridiculously minute quantities of the stuff, and that may take more energy to make than we'll get out of it anyways.

      It WILL take more energy than we can get out of it. They have to make the positrons first before destroying them.

      The point of this is to see how the particles behave to validate or disprove current theories. This isn't being done to make an unlimited source of energy.

      • Wouldn't the efficiency in the reaction itself be very close to 100%? Obviously it costs some energy for transporting and storing the matter and antimatter to be used as fuel and other such overhead, but I had thought that the 2p -> e+ + e- -> 2p reaction had practically zero waste energy. It's been a few years since my last physics class, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
    • Re:Wrong Question (Score:4, Informative)

      by Archaemic (1546639) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @02:17AM (#29678027)

      If you call hundreds of billions [cosmosmagazine.com] ridiculously minute, then maybe.

      • Re:Wrong Question (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @02:39AM (#29678123) Journal
        Yeah, I do call that minute. Positrons (the cheap stuff) costs ~$25 Billion per gram [wikipedia.org]. "Hundreds of billions" of positrons is a few orders of magnitude less than that (to put it mildly).
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Ask for a bulk discount.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by CarpetShark (865376)

          Positrons (the cheap stuff) costs ~$25 Billion per gram.

          Try ebay.

          • by Yvan256 (722131)

            But make sure to check the seller's rating first.

            • by Big Boss (7354)

              Negative review: Seller packaged the item poorly and the containment battery seems to be damag@!%!#&^* .... NO CARRIER

        • by toppavak (943659)
          At my alma mater we've produced positron beams as intense as 6e8 positrons per second [harvard.edu]. AFAIK this is the most intense beam ever generated, yet in the low energy case where electron-positron annihilation generates 2 gamma rays at 511keV [wikipedia.org] each, this would only generate a power output of 1.6e-5 watts (and it takes a 1MW reactor to generate that output). So you are correct in asserting that antimatter is currently a very poor potential energy source.
      • Re:Wrong Question (Score:5, Informative)

        by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday October 08, 2009 @02:45AM (#29678155) Homepage Journal

        Oh yeah, I love that news wire article.. it was repeated dozens of times in different magazines and news papers. Unfortunately, no-one has bothered to actually track down a reference to a scholarly publication for it. In fact, there is none, the technique was presented at a conference and no-one has reproduced it.. there's no papers quantifying exactly how much antimatter was made and at what temperatures.

      • Re:Wrong Question (Score:4, Informative)

        by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:14AM (#29678291)

        Hundreds of billions still ain't a lot when you're talking about nucleons for use as a fuel. When you annihilate it you should get about ten joules, or enough to raise the temperature of a tiny drop of water by a couple of degrees.

        • by radtea (464814)

          When you annihilate it you should get about three to the minus ten joules

          Fixed that for you. Protons have a mass of 1.7E-27 kg, c = 3E8 m/s, so 2*mc**2 ~ 3E-10 (the factor of two from the anti-proton).

          The article itself is clearly written for an audience of ignorant yobs, and that's fair enough: ignorant yobs need a gateway into the scientific world as much as anyone. But it ain't "news for nerds", because nerds know that matter-anti-matter colliders have been around for decades.

      • But that doesn't change the fact that if we have to MAKE the antimatter then it is physically impossible to get more energy out of it then we put in to it. Fusion works because there is hydrogen laying around everywhere. Fission works because there's easy to get uranium. Even fossil fuels work because they're already there for us to dig up. Unless we find some way to gather up natural antimatter this won't be useful way to produce energy.
        • by necro81 (917438)
          As it is in Star Trek, it is a very useful way to produce energy - if you need a tremendous amount of energy in a relatively small space released in a big hurry. It doesn't need to be a net-energy gain in order for it to be useful. The Hiroshima blast was about 13 kilotons of TNT worth of energy. Just how much energy do you think went into making the bomb?
          • by Shadowmist (57488)
            You don't have your science straight. Existing weapons have the fuel already available for it, uranium you dig out of the ground, Deuterium and Tritium you siphon out of existing water. Antimatter however is not something that you find in nature... for rather obvious reasons. The only way to make it in physics is to convert Energy into matter which gives you antimatter and matter in equal proportions. Now mind you we're talking a HUGE amount of energy here. So you have to generate all that energy som
            • by necro81 (917438)
              My point with the Hiroshima bomb is that the nuclear fuels used have enormous sunk energy costs in mining, refining, enriching, and shaping them into the final weapon. Thirteen kilotons of TNT is the energy equivalent of 15 gigawatt-hours, or a couple thousand gallons of gasoline. How much fuel did the Enola Gay use to deliver the bomb, how much for the Indianapolis to transport it across the Pacific, how much electrical energy to enrich the uranium at Oak Ridge? Overall, orders of magnitude more energy
      • by Tweenk (1274968)

        1 ml of air (or any other gas) at ambient conditions contains about 2.69e18 (in other words almost 3 quintillion) molecules. A hundred billions is 1e14, or 26900 times less.

        Also take note that antimatter was produced in the form of positrons. A positron is more than 50000 times lighter than a molecule of nitrogen. So the reported experiment produced 1/1382498600 of the mass of a milliliter of air. And a milliliter of air weighs about 1.3 mg.

        (Of course air also contains other gases than nitrogen but I'm simp

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Depends on what you're counting. Hundreds of billions of elephants isn't very minute, but hundreds of billions of electrons are.

    • Actually, I've always wondered about the dilithium crystals. That's what the scientists should be working on finding!

      Now how do we find the crystals in a different star system without having the warp drive to get to that different star system... hmmmmmm
      • Dilithium is just two lithium molecules which would be a squishy soft metal that is reactive with water.

        Not much of a "magic antimatter control device" happening there.

        • Dilithium is actually a gas. I believe if we compressed it enough into a solid it is possible it could form a crystalline structure. But this clearly wouldn't be stable and you couldn't pass it around in bars.
    • by Eivind (15695)

      "may" ?

      Perpetum mobile isn't invensted, and won't be anytime soon. First creating, then using antimatter is always going to give you back less than what you started with.

      Current production-methods aren't just giving "less" they're giving MANY orders of magnitude less. It's a question of using hundreds of megajoules, and get a few joules back. CERN can produce 10^7 atoms of anti-hydrogen a second, for example, this sounds like a lot, but at that rate it'd take them 2 billion years to produce a single gram.


    • by ctetc007 (875050)

      It's my understanding that we can only manufacture ridiculously minute quantities of the stuff, and that may take more energy to make than we'll get out of it anyways.

      Given that entropy is always staying the same or increasing, yes it most probably will take more energy to create that antimatter than what we get out of it.

    • by carvalhao (774969)

      "and that may take more energy to make than we'll get out of it anyways."

      Fortunately the law of energy conservation still applies in Slashdot

    • by CarpetShark (865376) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @05:26AM (#29678873)

      Now how can get some antimatter?

      Easy. We can has anticheezeburger. Can removes cheezeburger, put in matter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lennier (44736)

      I've always thought the logical solution to space energy needs would be:

      1. Built cluster of giant solar-powered accelerators in close solar orbit, say around Mercury
      2. Automatically refine positrons and antiprotons into cryogenic antihydrogen
      3. Figure out some way of diamagnetic containment using a really strong magnetic field.
      4. Ship tanks of the devil's brew to the outer system
      5. Mix antihydrogen and real hydrogen to make a crude but energetic brute-force rocket. Maybe 1 part anti-H2 to 1000 H2 or somethi

  • by ivan_w (1115485) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @02:14AM (#29678007) Homepage

    Unfortunately, a matter/anti matter reactor is not enough to create an Alcubierre drive.. We still need some Exotic Matter.. And a lot of it..

    So .. go back to sleep.. nothing to see here..


    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Tubal-Cain (1289912)
      I'm waiting for ZPMs
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      This isn't a reactor, it's a research collider. As you point out, antimatter engines are way off and warp drive itself is, in practical terms, still a load of bollocks. It's not even clear that an Alcubierre drive could operate at FTL: certainly naturally-existing warpings of space and time (gravity) have never been seen to break relativity.

    • Unfortunately, a matter/anti matter reactor is not enough to create an Alcubierre drive

      Hell the reaction that they are carrying out yields in the best of times about 500 KeV * 2 (two, due to laws about linear momentum and energy) per reaction. Say we have about million reactions (a million electrons annihilating a million positrons) That only yields somewhere around 7 to 8 x 10^-8 joules * 2 of energy. Hell, I can't even remember what the resulting particle would be in this case so I'm going to just guess it is a photon, really high energy photon so I'm guessing a gamma ray.

      Point being t

    • by adavies42 (746183)

      Unfortunately, a matter/anti matter reactor is not enough to create an Alcubierre drive.. We still need some Exotic Matter.. And a lot of it..

      Actually, there's a modification to the original version that requires only a few milligrams of exotic matter [wikipedia.org]. Of course, that's still infinitely more than we currently know how to make....

      P.S.: Props to whoever named the footnote anchors on that page after Star Trek captains.

  • Duh! (Score:5, Informative)

    by andre.david (1373517) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @02:18AM (#29678029)

    There's a matter-antimatter collider in production since the 1990's. It's called the Tevatron, it collides protons with antiprotons and it is in Illinois.

    • by 1s44c (552956)

      There's a matter-antimatter collider in production since the 1990's. It's called the Tevatron, it collides protons with antiprotons and it is in Illinois.

      And this one is bigger and more powerful. Lets just hope it doesn't come with a 'Designed for windows 7' sticker on the side though.

    • Re:Duh! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Gromius (677157) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:01AM (#29678215)
      And just to add to this. All particle colliders are mater-antimatter colliders, it just doesnt work otherwise (charge conservation) Thats right, every single particle collider where you are annihilating the particle is matter-antimatter.

      Now before somebody says, but the LHC is proton-proton, you suck, the LHC is actually a quark-anti quark or gluon-gluon collider. Protons are not just 3 quarks, due to the strong interaction there is also a sea of gluons and quark-anti quark pairs which carry the momentum of the proton. At the energies of the LHC, this sea becomes important.

      The article is terrible and horribly confused. Reads like something from the Sun (a gutter British newspaper for non Brits).
      • I imagine you could conceivably have an e- e- collider too, but given that a) the need for a higher order electromagnetic process would suppress the production cross sections considerably and b) positrons are easy to get hold of compared to antiprotons, then there isn't much point.

        These fancy new e+ e- colliders are all very well anyway, but I love the idea of a muon collider - gets round the pesky synchrotron radiation losses associated with circular electron colliders like LEP. Downside - muons only live

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        Nice explaination, but don't tell your readers they "suck" for not understanding quantum chromodynamics, smartass.

        • by Gromius (677157)
          My appologies, it came out wrong. I meant before somebody says to me "but the LHC is proton-proton, you suck". It was a slight tongue in cheek reference to the usual level of slashdot responses by people who know nothing about which they are talking about :)
      • You're right, of course. But to add, there are q-q T-channel gluon exchanges that contribute to the QCD background at the LHC.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      You're absolutely right. To jump on the bandwagon, there's been one since at least the seventies, when CERN modified the Super Proton Synchrotron to be a Super Proton-Antiproton Synchrotron. In the meantime, HERA at DESY collided protons and positrons for years... I don't know the history, so not sure when the first one was. In any case, this is definitely not news. The most interesting things about the forthcoming colliders is not whether they use antimatter: to quote Gerard 't Hooft's replies to physics c
    • Yes, and much short-lived antimatter (and anti-neutrinos) is created all the time in natural processes. Antimatter is not really a big deal for physicists - even if it gets the Trekkies hot at the mere mention of it. Doing matter-antimatter collisions directly is useful though, as you don't have to wade through the other types of events to get the ones of interest.
  • The +/- designs are last gen ^ X, not next gen. If The Register followed the history details closely, a good number of computer startups came from a club that met at SLAC, the Stanford Linear Accelerator. Yes, the design is that old and older.

    As for the 'obvious question', if the supposedly obligatory SF reference comes out sounding like so much shite, leave it out, OK?

    Between these two details, TFA could have predated /. by a decade.

  • There were already some electron-positron colliders, the LEP for example. I think the new thing about this collider is that it is a linear and for high energy. In an electron/positron synchrotron the particles are flying in circles, permanently loosing energy to synchrotron radiation. This is why a linear design will allow to achieve higher energies.
  • PET scanning uses radioisotope Beta decay to Neutron, Neutrino and Positron, Positron -> Electron annihilation -> Gamma -> detection.

    This is using an existing source of positrons, beta radiation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positron_emission [wikipedia.org]

    The non-trivial stuff is making anti-atoms. That's quite difficult.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antimatter#Artificial_production [wikipedia.org]

  • "sneak-peak" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 1u3hr (530656) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:23AM (#29678323)
    and will the Vulcans show up for a sneak-peak?

    Peak: top of a mountain.

    And the daily Slashdot malapropism award goes to samzenpus.

    • That's so "Grammar Nazi" that I'm invoking Godwin's Law through a degree of separation.
      • by 1u3hr (530656)
        That's so "Grammar Nazi"

        If I'd called him an illiterate moron, that might be justified. But I tried to make the point with a lighter note.

        If you don't care about spelling (not "grammar"), that's fine, but it's not debatable, it's just 100% wrong.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Wee owl ewes spill chuckers sew wee no hour spilling is core wrecked.

  • The article, and the summary, is a bit misleading.

    There are always many different designs being investigated, even up to fairly advanced stages. This doesn't mean that any of those is going to be build. You have to realize that in order to make decisions that cost several M$, you have to know what you can do and how to achieve it beforehand, in great detail.

    CLIC is definitely one of the bigger things currently in investigation. The ILC (lepton machine) is another one. There's also big interest in Neutri

  • It is more likely that a representative from the Intergalactic Patent office will show up and attempt to begin negotiations for royalty premiums.
  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:56AM (#29678479)
    For once, read TFA. It's quite amusing. And it isn't about what it seems to be.

    It's about wakefields and the possibility of reducing their external effects by detuning. What makes this interesting is that the proposals for next-gen small accelerators are about deliberately using wakefields to achieve very high acceleration over very short ranges, effectively getting particles to surf on laser-induced wakefields.

    The guy with the proposal also manages to give a spectacularly bad example of detuning - bells, anyone? - which fully complies with the Bad Analogy requirements, i.e. detuning is nothing at all like having lots of bells, and the analogy doesn't provide any insight at all into what is happening. Detuning is more like resting a finger gently on a vibrating guitar string.

    All this article really tells me is that wakefields are very hot in particle accelerator research, and efforts are focussing on reducing their unwanted effects as well as extracting more energy from them.

    • by smolloy (1250188)

      The article's explanation is quite bad -- wakefields aren't really anything to do with twisting and warping "the very fabric of space-time". They're just the electromagnetic energy left behind by the beam as it traverses these cavities.

      I think his bell analogy is actually quite good. He goes on to say that damped detuning is much more preferable to strong damping, and it is strong damping that is more like resting a finger on a guitar string. The problem he is trying to solve is that of the entire struct

      • Damped detuning is precisely absorbing energy in such a way that the spectrum broadens, the guitar string analogy. "Damped" = removing energy, "detuning" = broadening spectrum.
        This is like a system of resonators all with slightly different peak frequencies which cannot co-excite one another, which is neither damping nor detuning. If you want to see an everyday damped detuning system, look under your car at the engine mounts. Not only do they absorb energy (the rubber is deliberately made with energy-absorbi
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by smolloy (1250188)

          FYI -- I work on this project, and I work with Roger Jones (the guy in the article), so I know a substantial amount about this.

          Your definition of damping is quite right, but your definition of detuning is, in this case, not really what he means. What he means is taking a cavity, and changing its shape in order to "detune" some cells.

          To explain:

          The cavities are traditionally built in such a way that each cell rings (like a bell) at the design frequency of the accelerating rf. Since all of the cells are ide

  • maybe by Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz himself now back to the poetry
  • Okay now correct me if I'm wrong on this, but if I remember correctly, Positrons and Electrons are in the group of Leptons. More generally they are a type of fermion. I understand that fermions make up Baryons and so forth, but aren't we getting ahead of ourselves when we call this reactor a "matter-anitmatter" reactor? Wouldn't it be more fitting to call it a "particle-antiparticle" reactor?

fortune: cpu time/usefulness ratio too high -- core dumped.