What is the Difference Between Matter and Antimatter?
The difference between these two forms of matter is more elementary than it seems. What we call matter is everything that is composed of protons (sub-atomic particle with a positive charge), electrons (sub-atomic particle with a negative charge), and neutrons (sub-atomic particle 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.
In 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=mc^2, 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.
Choi, Charles Q. "Does Antimatter Fall Up or Down? New Device May Provide Answer." HuffingtonPost.com. N.p., 01 Apr. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.
Dickinson, Boonsri. "Antimatter Annihilation." Discover Dec. 2007: 19. Print.
Questions & Answers
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?
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.Helpful 1
© 2009 Leonard Kelley