This is a collection of three posts from Centauri Dreams discussing the capturing of antimatter, and the use of it as a resource.
Antimatter is currently the most expensive physical substance that we know of – apparently, our going rate to ‘mine’ antimatter is $100 trillion per gram, which is just a touch more expensive than other substances. Which is rather a pity, because it’s quite useful as a fuel. The energy density of matter-antimatter fuel is orders of magnitude higher than anything else we currently can produce on Earth, even a fusion reaction. As an example, 10 milligrams of antimatter holds the same chemical energy as 120 tonnes of rocket fuel.
Apparently though, with the application of the right kind of solar powered harvesting machinery, we could produce a gram a day from Earth’s upper atmosphere. With it being stated that ten micrograms would get a spaceship to Jupiter, a gram a day would be more than enough for most uses.
As another option, there is the possibility of creating a linear accelerator based antimatter ‘factory’ down here on planet earth. Some of the latest research in the field suggests that the cost of this method could be as low as $10 million per milligram, which is an entirely acceptable rate in line with what we currently pay for nuclear energy generation of the same rate.
If we could ever produce antimatter at a decent rate, we would have an energy source that is 1,000 times more effective than a nuclear fission reaction, and one quite capable of opening up the entire solar system to use. Indeed, with an efficient engine design, local stars such as Proxima Centauri become appropriate targets for exploration, well within a human lifetime.
Unfortunately, all of this is far into the future, and likely will never occur during the lifetime of anyone I know.