It’s time to live your ultimate supervillain fantasy. Today, you’re going to unleash your masterpiece of mass destruction. An antimatter bomb.
How would you build it? How much damage would it do to the planet? And how much damage would it do to your bank account?
Okay, so before you finalize any plans to usher in the apocalypse, let’s see what we’re working with. Imagine subatomic particles had an opposite day. That’s antimatter.
For example, anti-electrons, also called positrons, are just like electrons except they have a positive charge instead of a negative one. Antimatter is just matter with its electrical charge reversed.
You with me? I know, I know, when do the explosions come in? When a particle and antiparticle meet, they will annihilate each other in a big flash of energy. This usually happens in the form of high-energy gamma-ray radiation.
This all sounds wonderfully destructive. But first, you have to build it. And that’s easier said than done. I hope you have steady hands because your main goal would be to keep antimatter separated from normal matter until the bomb is ready to go off.
If you value your life and want to avoid a premature explosion, you may want to use something called a Penning trap.
Using the Penning Trap, antimatter such as positrons will be trapped inside an electric field. Just make sure you keep that trap powered. If you don’t, the electric field will stop working, and all your antimatter particles would come into contact with the container walls, which in case you forgot, is made up of normal matter. You know the rest.
But while you are tinkering with the Penning trap, we could run into another problem. Even if you managed to pull together all the antimatter on Earth, you would only have ten nanograms (2.2*10-11).
For perspective, if that amount of antimatter exploded on your fingertip, it would be as dangerous as lighting a match. Let’s say you went on a shopping trip around the solar system and were able to get your hands on half a kilo (1 lb) of antimatter. Think it’s going to be enough this time?
Well, that amount of antimatter is equivalent to 19 megatons of TNT. Oh yeah, now we’re talking. So is this antimatter bomb going to be the doomsday device you wanted?
Well, thankfully, we’ve got a reference point. The Tsar Bomba is the most powerful nuclear bomb ever created. It also happens to be as powerful as an antimatter bomb containing about 1.1 kg (2.4 lb) of antimatter.
You, uh, might want to stand back. When the antimatter bomb explodes, it will erupt into an enormous fireball, creating a 10 km (6 mi) wide column of dust, shooting straight up into the sky.
Next up would be the mushroom cloud reaching 65 km (40 mi) into the atmosphere. So good news, it’s going to do some damage. The bad news is, it damaged your bank account even worse.
One of the biggest challenges to building an antimatter bomb would be the cost. This is because antimatter is the most expensive substance on Earth. A single gram of antimatter can set you back over $60 trillion.
So, maybe you could find another hobby besides blowing up the Earth? Maybe you could use your anti-matter knowledge for something good?
- “Antimatter | CERN”. 2021. home.cern.
- “The Universe’s Dark Secret: Where Did All The Antimatter Go?”. Paul, Sutter. 2021. space.com.
- “Ten things you might not know about antimatter”. Diana, Kwon. 2021. Symmetry Magazine.
- “GDP By Country – Worldometer”. 2021. worldometers.info.
- “Russia’s Tsar Nuclear ‘Bomba’ Was Too Powerful To Ever Be Used”. Paul Richard Huard. 2020. The National Interest.
- “Antimatter Bomb: Could We Use Antimatter To Make An Explosive?”. Sarah, Marquart. 2021. Futurism.
- “Reaching For The Stars | Science Mission Directorate”. 2021. science.nasa.gov.
- “Hiroshima And Nagasaki: The Long Term Health Effects | K=1 Project”. Dan, Listwa. 2020. k1project.columbia.edu.