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What Is the Difference Between Matter and Antimatter?

Leonard Kelley holds a bachelor's in physics with a minor in mathematics. He loves the academic world and strives to constantly explore it.

Matter vs. antimatter. What's the difference?

Matter vs. antimatter. What's the difference?

The difference between these two forms of matter is more elementary than it seems.

  • Matter: What we call matter is everything that is composed of protons (subatomic particles with a positive charge), electrons (subatomic particles with a negative charge), and neutrons (subatomic particles with no charge). All these particles form what we call atoms. In the atom, the protons and neutrons make up the nucleus, which is the core, and the electrons orbit the nucleus much like a planet around a star.
  • Antimatter: With antimatter, the charges of each particle are reversed. Instead of a proton, its antimatter equivalent is called an anti-proton with a negative charge. Instead of an electron, its antimatter equivalent is called a positron with a positive charge. The exception to this reversal rule is the neutron, whose antimatter counterpart, the anti-neutron, shares the same traits (since a neutron has no charge, its anti-form would retain no charge).

If one were to combine antimatter and matter together, you would create a large explosion of energy. This is caused by joining the opposite charges of each counterpart, which thus causes them to be reversed into the form of energy based on the equation e=mc2, e meaning energy, m equaling mass, and c equaling the speed of light, roughly 186,000 miles per second. But not to worry, since the only method of generating antimatter on Earth, involving particle accelerators, only produces a few particles at a time, thus preventing any disastrous reactions.

In fact, scientists were able to create an antiatom in 1995. This hinted at the ability to take several of these and make an antimolecule. In 2007, David Cassidy at the University of California at Riverside was able to take two positronium atoms, each one consisting of an electron and a positron in a strange bond, and combined them into an antimolecule (Dickinson 16). Of course, the molecule was short-lived as the electron and positron annihilated each other.

Something that scientists are unsure of is if antimatter falls differently than normal matter. It seems like such a silly thing to question but we do not have evidence to show how antimatter responds to gravity. Using new super-cooling techniques and interferometry, scientists may be able to finally know by slowing down the antiatom and measuring its behavior (Choi). Who knows what new advances will be made that make use of these differences, but as we can see many similarities also exist.

Works Cited

Choi, Charles Q. "Does Antimatter Fall Up or Down? New Device May Provide Answer." N.p., 01 Apr. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

Dickinson, Boonsri. "Antimatter Annihilation." Discover Dec. 2007: 19. Print.

Questions & Answers

Question: One question that occurred to me was atom on anti-atom reaction. Two identicals are one thing. What of a positive iron and negative hydrogen? Would it leave a different positive atom or destroy all of it?

Answer: Great question. The energy release would definitely break up the atom, if sufficiently small. However, as you get to higher elements like those we have in nuclear reactors, the atomic bonding there could hold the atom together, depending on the location of the annihilation.

© 2009 Leonard Kelley


Leonard Kelley (author) on September 13, 2015:

I will definitely give it a read.

Ruth Mata from New Mexico on September 13, 2015:

I am currently working on my latest Hub, I should be getting ready to publish it today. I hope you get a chance to check it out! :)

Leonard Kelley (author) on September 13, 2015:

Another example of the dynamics of science! It is overlapping and a beautiful tapestry.

Ruth Mata from New Mexico on September 13, 2015:

I find it completely fascinating that it is postulated that the big bang was what it was BECAUSE of the matter-antimatter pairs.

Leonard Kelley (author) on December 20, 2014:

And with new potential observations of dark matter we may finally have clues to their existence, or if it is even possible. Who knows!

Blackspaniel1 on December 20, 2014:

I would get the impression the other subatomic particles are not in the summary of matter above, but they are indeed matter or antimatter, depending. As an extension, since dark matter does not absorb light as it would if it were atoms, it will be interesting to see if there is to be dark antimatter.

prabhat on May 05, 2014:

IIts helped in project thanks a lot....

Grandaddy on October 23, 2012:

This is sum good learning tools. if you really want to learn try this page. thanks................

curious on February 28, 2012:

really a wonderful explanation...... u made my day

KnowledgeSeeker on February 05, 2012:

Very Simple Yet Informative .

best way to start learning anti-matter :D

Leonard Kelley (author) on December 03, 2011:

We can create anti-matter using particle accelerators and we can capture it using a magnetic field. Electric charges and magnetic fields are representative of the EM force, and when you create the right magnetic field, anti-matter will hover. So long as this field is created in a vacuum, no explosion between anti-matter and matter will occur.

Paul on December 02, 2011:

If, when antimatter touches matter results in an explosion, then how are we able to capture or create anti-matter with tools that are made with matter.

Leonard Kelley (author) on May 09, 2011:

Jay Estux, if you look at the sub-atomic particles that make up each atomic particle, you will find that many components make up what we call protons, neutrons, and electrons.

Jay Estux on May 09, 2011:

Thanks for this help. The info about proton/anti-proton was helpful. I am constructing a physics theory about annihilation. My theory is halfway there as it explains why two identical particles, with their only difference being that they have opposite charges, annihilate. What I can't seem to grasp is what is an anti-neutron. It has charge of 0 therefore the opposite of 0 is 0 therefore it has the same charge. The anti-neutron and neutron can't be exactly the same as then they are the same particles and therefore the neutron in the nucleus(es) of atoms would annihilate each other. Do they have another reversed property such as spin, are they their own anti-particle and do they even exist.

aashish on January 26, 2011:

thanks dude....

Harry on November 22, 2010:

Thanks - felt like reading something interesting and this sure met the standard!! :D

Nick on November 16, 2010:

Helped me finish my response for physics, thanks man

Jimmy on May 01, 2010:

Thanks a lot mate, helps to clarify things :)

Leonard Kelley (author) on April 10, 2010:

I am glad I could help you Brian!

Brian on April 10, 2010:

Yes ... thank you very much for a very simple yet articulate explanation of matter and antimatter.

sam on April 03, 2010:

thanks a lot

Leonard Kelley (author) on January 12, 2010:

I am glad this was helpful, thank you both for the nice comments!

ANITMATTER on January 12, 2010:

Hey thank you so much for writing this down you really broke it down to the basic...Thanks ;)

SEIF on December 10, 2009:

Very helpful! =)