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Antimatter Tops List of World’s Most Expensive Material at $62 Trillion per Gram

Antimatter is now the most expensive material in the world, but how exactly can it be harnessed to produce results?

Image showing a model of an antimatter container.
Antimatter is the worlds most expensive material at $62 trillion per gram. Credit: Shutterstock/Christian Merta

Antimatter has become the most expensive material in the world, having a worth of $62 billion per gram. However, the actual material itself presents challenges.

Most people would assume the most expensive material in the world would be something that is more common knowledge, such as emeralds or diamonds. However, it is a little-known material called antimatter.

Antimatter topped the list of most expensive materials, costing a staggering $62.5 trillion for just a single gram. Endohedral fullerenes came in at second place, but comparatively, has a price of just $145 to $167 million per gram.

This shows just how immeasurably valuable antimatter is. It is even more valuable than the entire economy of the United States, which is worth $25.5 trillion.

The price tag is partly due to the sheer rarity of the material, but also due to its overwhelming energy potential.

What is antimatter?

Antimatter is defined as “matter composed of the antiparticles of the corresponding particles in ‘ordinary’ matter.” In simplistic terms, it is the mirror image of what is paramount to the structure of our universe, matter.

It is not a naturally occurring material found in the Earth, instead it is the product of human ingenuity and science.

Paul Dirac was the scientist to discover the modern theory of antimatter in the early 20th century. Dirac’s studies led to the discovery of the anti-electron, or positron. The anti-electron is a particle with the same mass as an electron, but an opposing charge.

Total destruction is the product of a collision between antimatter and matter. This collision releases energy in a way embodied in Einstein’s E=mc˄2.

Such destruction even dwarfs familiar concepts such as nuclear annihilation. This demonstrates how the material could, when harnessed correctly, be a source for mass amounts of energy.

How is it produced?

The actual production of antimatter is quite a tricky process. Vast amounts of energy are needed, as well as modern, cutting-edge technology.

One of the few places with such capabilities is the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. However, it is only able to produce extremely small amounts of antimatter.

CERN’s Antimatter Factory does have steps to follow for how they could produce the material. This includes taking a proton, speeding it up immensely, and then crashing it into an iridium block. One in every million of said collisions will produce a proton-antiproton pair.

The principle this is based upon is that if enough energy is concentrated at a single point, it will create mass – the mass of matter. Whenever a vast amount of energy gets concentrated and turned into the mass of matter, antimatter will be born too.

The Large Hadron Collider in itself reflects the massive effort and cost of such a venture, as its spans over ten miles, accompanied by 9300 super-cooled magnets, and consumes around 120 MW of power.

With the estimated cost at nearly $5 billion, it shows how constructing a paragon in engineering terms, like the Large Hadron Collider, is challenging enough, never mind facilitating it to produce antimatter.

Image showing Antimatter trap at AEgIS, one of the experiments into antimatter using CERN's Antiproton Decelerator.
Antimatter trap at AEgIS, one of the experiments into antimatter using CERN’s Antiproton Decelerator. Credit: CERN.

How can antimatter be used?

Scientists are infatuated by what they can achieve with antimatter, despite its stratospheric costs.

The proposed main function of antimatter is that NASA could use it as fuel for interstellar space travel, possessing an energy yield better than any contemporary propulsion system.

In terms of how antimatter could be used medicinally, it has been proposed as being used in imaging and radiation therapy, fostering hope for helping in the treatment of cancer.

Antimatter has even been considered for use as a trigger mechanism for nuclear weapons.

The challenges with antimatter

What stops this use of antimatter in the aforementioned ways is the storage and handling of the material. The fact that it would cause such mass devastation on impact with matter causes obvious issues.

This means the material would need to use electromagnetic fields for containment in a vacuum, something only available for minimal quantities.

The production rate of antimatter is also way behind the demand for the material.

The amount that scientists have produced since its discovery would only be able to turn a light bulb on for a few moments, showing just how hard antimatter is to produce.

Knowledge on how to use antimatter has its limits too. There are the uses mentioned above such as being used for travel in space, and medicinal uses, but the full extent in terms of how the material can be used is limited by technological capabilities.  

Professor Michal Dosser of CERN eluded to the challenges that actually gathering a full gram of antimatter would present. He said that it would take “10 billion years to accumulate.”

Written By

Matthew McKeown is a student at Ulster University, in his final year of a BA History degree. His interests include current affairs, politics, and international relations.

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