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January 30, 2006

Other Tech: Antimatter harvesting

Giant wire spheres may one day float near Earth, scooping up bits of antimatter for humans to use as space fuel. This is one of 12 recently selected to each receive up to $75,000 from the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts. A plan is for antimatter to be collected using three concentric wire spheres. The outermost, spanning 16 kilometres, would be positively charged to repel protons from the solar wind and attract negatively charged anti-protons from space. These anti-protons would then slow down passing through the middle sphere and come to rest inside the smallest sphere, which would measure 100 metres in diameter. An electromagnetic field would trap the exotic particles there.

"Basically, what you want to do is generate a net, just like you're fishing," says Gerald Jackson, the project's principal investigator at Hbar Technologies in West Chicago, Illinois, US. About 80 grams of antimatter may float between the orbits of Venus and Mars, while as much as 20 kilograms could be harvested within Saturn's far-out orbit.

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