# The Final Frontier: Antimatter Propulsion

## Science fiction or reality?

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Common in science fiction, an antimatter powered rocket is not new. In fact, the propulsion system was first proposed by Eugen Sänger in 1953. When seen powering the Enterprise in “Star Trek” to speeds faster than light, using antimatter as an energy source seems completely in the realm of fiction. However, this futuristic technology may not be as far off as you think.

Let’s take a step back. What is antimatter?

## Antimatter

There’s no trick, it’s exactly what it sounds like. The prefix ‘anti’ has Greek origin and means, “against, opposed to, opposite of, instead.” Antiparticles make up antimatter just as regular particles make up regular matter. Antiparticles and their particle counterparts share all the same properties aside from one thing: they hold opposite electric charges. Other than that, antiparticles are exactly the same as regular particles.

Before we get into antimatter propulsion systems, let’s review the history of antimatter. Modern antimatter was first proposed by the British physicist Paul Dirac in 1928. While studying special relativity and quantum mechanics, Dirac was solving a relativist quantum mechanics equation to describe the behavior of an electron moving at a relativistic speed. He found two viable solutions to the equation: one for an electron with a positive charge and one with a negative charge.

Take the square root of 4. Just like Dirac’s, this equation has two possible solutions, one with a negative charge, and one with a positive charge.(x = 2 or x = −2).

Dirac suggested we should revise Einstein’s famous equation E=mc² because of an entire new category of particles. He said that Einstein left out that the “m” in the equation, the mass, could have negative properties as well as positive.

However, there was a caveat. Classical physics didn’t include both negative and positive properties for each particle. By revising Einstein’s equation to

E = + or — mc², it would assume an entire new kind of particle. And so, the existence of antimatter was possible.

So, Dirac proposed that the electron had a corresponding antiparticle, the antielectron or…