future

Antimatter Production – Present and Future

When it comes to using antimatter for propulsion, getting sufficient amounts of the exotic fuel is the biggest challenge. For flights within the solar system, hybrid concepts would require several micrograms of antimatter, while pure antimatter rockets would consume dozens of kilograms per trip. And going beyond the solar system would demand the production of several metric tons and more.

We are very, very far from this. Currently around 10 nanograms of anti-protons are produced in the large particles accelerators each year. At this rate it would take 100 years to produce one measly microgram and 100 billion years to accumulate one kilogram. However, the antimatter production rate has seen exponential growth, going up by sixteen orders of magnitude over the past decades, and this general trend will probably continue for some time.

Even with a noticeable slowdown in this exponential growth, gram amounts of anti-protons could be manufactured each year towards the end of the 21st century, making hybrid antimatter propulsion feasible. With no slowdown, the rate could even reach kilograms per year by then. While most physicists view this as an overly optimistic estimate, it is not impossible considering the current trend in antimatter production and the historic growth of liquid hydrogen and uranium production rates (both considered difficult to manufacture in the past).

There is still much to be optimized in the production of antimatter. The energy efficiency at present is only 10-9, meaning that you have to put in one gigajoule of pricey electric energy to produce a single joule of antimatter energy. The resulting costs are a staggering 62.5 trillion USD per gram of anti-protons, making antimatter the most expensive material known to man. So if you want to tell your wife how precious she is to you (and want to get rid of her at the same time), how about buying her a nice anti-matter scarf?

Establishing facilities solely dedicated to antimatter production, as opposed to the by-product manufacturing in modern particle accelerators, would significantly improve the situation. NASA experts estimate that an investment of around 5 billion USD is sufficient to build such a first generation antimatter factory. This step could bring the costs of anti-protons down to 25 billion USD per gram and increase the production rate to micrograms per year.

While we might not see kilogram amounts of antimatter or antimatter propulsion systems in our lifetime, the production trend over the next few decades will reveal much about the feasibility of antimatter rockets and interstellar travel. If the optimists are correct, and that’s a big if, the grandchildren of our grandchildren’s grandchildren might watch the launch of the first spacecraft capable of reaching neighboring stars. Sci-fi? I’m sure that’s what people said about the Moon landing and close-up pictures from Mars and Jupiter just a lifetime ago.

For more information, check out my ebook Antimatter Propulsion.

New Release for Kindle: Antimatter Propulsion

I’m very excited to announce the release of my latest ebook called “Antimatter Propulsion”. I’ve been working working on it like a madman for the past few months, going through scientific papers and wrestling with the jargon and equations. But I’m quite satisfied with the result. Here’s the blurb, the table of contents and the link to the product page. No prior knowledge is required to enjoy the book.

Many popular science fiction movies and novels feature antimatter propulsion systems, from the classic Star Trek series all the way to Cameron’s hit movie Avatar. But what exactly is antimatter? And how can it be used accelerate rockets? This book is a gentle introduction to the science behind antimatter propulsion. The first section deals with antimatter in general, detailing its discovery, behavior, production and storage. This is followed by an introduction to propulsion, including a look at the most important quantities involved and the propulsion systems in use or in development today. Finally, the most promising antimatter propulsion and rocket concepts are presented and their feasibility discussed, from the solid core concept to antimatter initiated microfusion engines, from the Valkyrie project to Penn State’s AIMStar spacecraft.

Section 1: Antimatter

The Atom
Dirac’s Idea
Anti-Everything
An Explosive Mix
Proton and Anti-Proton Annihilation
Sources of Antimatter
Storing Antimatter
Getting the Fuel

Section 2: Propulsion Basics

Conservation of Momentum
♪ Throw, Throw, Throw Your Boat ♫
So What’s The Deal?
May The Thrust Be With You
Acceleration
Specific Impulse and Fuel Requirements
Chemical Propulsion
Electric Propulsion
Fusion Propulsion

Section 3: Antimatter Propulsion Concepts

Solid Core Concept
Plasma Core Concept
Beamed Core Concept
Antimatter Catalyzed Micro-Fission / Fusion
Antimatter Initiated Micro-Fusion

Section 4: Antimatter Rocket Concepts

Project Valkyrie
ICAN-II
AIMStar
Dust Shields

You can purchase “Antimatter Propulsion” here for $ 2.99.

The Emerging World Of Ebooks

As we all know, the Internet changed everything. The Net and the Web have brought the world closer together. Many older means of communication have either been replaced or changed so as to co-exist with, and complement, electronic communication. Email, for example, has replaced almost all business and a lot of personal letter writing, though our mailboxes remain filled with lots of mail, most unwanted. A lot of printed newspapers and magazines still exist, but their content is now also available on websites, and the websites are timelier and often offer more detailed information. Printed media is not dead by any means, as millions of people still prefer to curl up with a good book or grab a paper on their way to work. There have been many efforts to popularize ebooks, downloadable books in digital form, but their acceptance remains in its infancy.

But that won’t stay that way. Ebooks make sense. Since books are almost all text, an ebook download is very fast and hundreds of ebooks can fit onto a small storage card. Ebooks do not contribute to cutting down forests, they do not need to be trucked across the country, they do not produce waste, and they are usually a lot less expensive than printed books. Ebooks also have many other advantages. Depending on your ebook reader software, an ebook can be annotated, bookmarked and searched. The latter is especially useful; I often want to go back to a certain quote or paragraph in a book, and electronic search is so much easier than leafing through a printed book.

One of the problems ebooks face is that people do not know how to use them. They are confused by the many different ebook formats or think they need a particular piece of hardware to read them. In fact, the formats are not really a problem. Most computers can read popular ebook formats and ebook reader software is freely available. Hardware is a bit more of an issue. Hardcovers and paperbacks are awfully convenient and they don’t need batteries, so a lot of people shy away from reading on a computer screen or spending the money for a dedicated ebook reader.

This is really too bad as ebooks are clearly the way of the future. They just make too much sense. Those who dismiss ebooks are missing out on a great and increasingly attractive alternative to the printed page. Those who are willing to give ebooks a chance are rewarded with lower costs and the ability to carry an entire library on a device of their choice, be that a notebook computer, a Tablet PC, a dedicated ebook reader, a PDA or even a smartphone. And they have access to a potentially much larger variety of books. That’s because ebooks make self-publishing easy and lots of authors who don’t have a chance of getting picked up by traditional print publishing houses can distribute their books electronically. Best of all, there is no waste and there will never be unsold books that end up on a bargain table or in a landfill.

My advice is to give ebooks a chance. Download a free ebook. Look for sites dedicated to ebooks, especially those with a website design that is appealing. See what format you prefer, and what device you like to read on. But be warned: you may get hooked. Once you get into them, downloading and reading ebooks can become a passion.