Nuclear Physics
Particle Physics

What is antimatter?



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Antimatter could be considered the opposite of "normal" matter. We know that the matter that is all around us and makes us up is built of atoms, and these atoms are made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. In antimatter, atoms would be constructed of anti-protons, anti-neutrons and anti-electrons (which we know as positrons). As electrons orbit a nucleus of protons and neutrons in the "regular" matter we know, positrons would orbit a nucleus of anti-protons and anti-neutrons to make up antimatter atoms.

We currently use anti-electrons (positrons) on a regular basis in the medical application we know as PET imaging. Additionally, we use anti-protons in nuclear research. The Large Hadron Collider runs with protons and antiprotons circulating in the acceleration ring (in opposite directions), and then "collided" in an experimental area packed with sensors and detectors.

It should be noted that matter and antimatter don't "like" each other. Any "contact" between the two leads to mutual annihilation. In the case of the positron, which is produced in beta plus decay, that positron will eventually "run into" an electron, and mass of the two particles will be entirely converted into energy. Links have been included for further investigation, and you'll find them below.