Chronicles of Antimatter: My Idea To Clean Up The Micro-Debris In Space! 💡(Part 7)

Photo by CERN.

Preface

Hey, hey, antimatter enthusiasts! I’ve been talking a lot about antimatter and how it works, but I have never told you the reason why I have been so deeply interested in this phenomena!

Well, spill the beans, Carlos! What is the real reason you have been working on this for a while?

Photo by Imgflip.

I have been researching antimatter and the space junk dilemma to come up with an idea on how to eliminate the space junk from Low-Earth Orbit & Geo-Stationary Orbit for good!

No way! Congrats! Now, let me hear this idea! It sounds exquisite! 👌🏽

Not so fast though… We need to do a few quick “sponsors” before I proceed with the idea.

Oh, come on, Carlos! Do you really have to do this?

Calm down, reader. It will all make sense once you read what I am asking of you.

And Now, A Quick Sponsor From Our Writer

The following paragraph will cover some concepts that we have already discussed in previous articles in this series, but we will only focus on three articles in this idea, specifically! If you want to go back and understand the concepts, I would highly recommend you do! If you understand what I am talking about, you can skip the next paragraph up to Micro-Debris!

P.S. If you decide to go back and read some articles, show some holiday spirit by clapping the article! 😉

Brief Review

Space has become a junkyard above our heads, and so many pieces are still zooming at speeds of 27358.848 km/h!

But Carlos, how many pieces are up in space? You’re making it sound like it will kill us all.

As of November 18, 2020, the European Space Agency (ESA) has confirmed that there are:

  • 34000 objects greater than 10 cm (Breakfast-Plate-Size)
  • 900000 objects from greater than 1 cm to 10 cm (Doughnut-Size)
  • Approximately 128 million objects from greater than 1 mm to 1 cm (Micro-Debris)

These objects have been caused by collisions from un-operational satellites, or through accidental collisions such as Iridium 33 & Kosmos-2251 back on February 10, 2009.

But in any case, when this happens, pieces of the spacecraft can collide with one another, break up into smaller pieces, and cause a whole lot of destruction, or sometimes, death.

Wait, what!? I thought space was fun & harmless!

Reader, it is, but because of the kinetic energy equation in space, the velocity of an object will be squared, so if an object were traveling 10X the speed of a bullet, it actually has 100X the kinetic energy of the speeding bullet.

Kinetic Energy Formula. Photo by ClipArtKey.

Holllyyy shhi-

Did you not remember what I told you previously? There are children reading this article! Chill reader, chill!

Micro-Debris

Out of all those pieces of space junk that is out there in space, micro-debris is the most consequential for space travel & exploration.

But why, Carlos? Why not the larger pieces of junk?

Going back to the kinetic energy formula, micro-debris (ranging from 0.2 grams to 12 grams) can carry between 7700-8500 Joules of Energy. That may not mean much to you, reader, but what that means is that these small pieces of micro-debris in space carry enough energy to kill you.

If you are on a spacecraft, these small pieces do have the potential to cause serious damage to your spacecraft. For example:

7mm shattered window caused by Micro-Debris denting a window on the ISS in 2016. Photo by HuffPost.com

And in case you forgot, up to November of 2020, there are 128 million pieces of micro-debris in Low-Earth Orbit! But the worst part, which was proposed by NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler, said that if we continue to add spare junk from previous missions, we will lock ourselves on Earth. There will be so much junk that no rocket will be able to leave Earth because the micro-debris can destroy the rocket!

No more Space Exploration, no more Moon Landings, no Alpha Centauri, no Mars Colonization… The list goes on. And I’m scared sh**less that this may happen.

Carlos, look who’s talking about watching their vocabulary! 🤨

Sorry, reader, but this is a situation that has to be resolved in the next 5 years! And I think I may have a solution to this problem!

How To Destroy The Micro-Debris

Let’s use antimatter to destroy that pesky micro-debris!

Okay…but why antimatter? Is there any particular reason for it?

Yes, definitely! Antimatter has about 89 million Mega-Joules per Kilogram or in more familiar terms, about the same energy density as the Fat Man bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki in World War 2 in 1945.

However, I do not want to put bombs into space and detonate them! That would just cause more micro-debris than what we had already started with!

Instead, what we can do is create a small device that can be launched into space and shoot antiparticles at the pieces of micro-debris! What will happen is that the clump of micro-debris and the antiparticles that will be shot out from our device will annihilate each other because of opposite charges.

But how is that possible? Why will they annihilate, Carlos?

Everything you see around you is made of matter: your clothes, your TV, your food, everything. Antimatter, on the other hand, is the same thing, but with opposite charges. As an example, if a gram of matter and a gram of antimatter met with one another and collided, they would both annihilate, releasing pure energy in the form of gamma rays!

Electron-Positron Annihilation. Photo by Folk.Uib.No

Okay, sounds promising, Carlos, but where are you going to get the antimatter from? CERN has only made 1 nanogram and Fermilab has only made about 15 nanograms! That is not even close to heat up my morning cup of coffee! ☕

Use Humans! They Emit Antimatter (Positrons)

Wait, what? Do you want to use us as a way of making antimatter?

Yes. Photo by Pinterest.

Okay, that’s funny, but seriously, why? Any specific reason? Why not just use particle accelerators to make the anti-protons that CERN makes?

Because particle accelerators are man-made, dammit, if we want to create antimatter, it has to be forged from the creation of the universe, and that’s us human beings. Humans are made from the same clumps of matter that make the stars undergo nuclear fusion, the photo of M-87, neutron stars, etc.

Humans do emit antimatter via Potassium-40 Decay. Potassium-40 is an isotope of Potassium that undergoes radioactive decay because it has too many protons/neutrons inside of its nucleus. More specifically, it undergoes Beta Decay, otherwise known as “Electron Decay”.

But if you remember correctly, Potassium-40 can decay via both (Beta +) and (Beta -) Decay.

Carlos, which one do we choose? Do both emit antimatter?

(Beta +) and (Beta -) Decay Briefly Explained

Not really. (Beta -) Decay converts a neutron into a proton, but it will release an electron and an antineutrino.

(Beta -) Decay. Photo by Professor Quibb.

But in Beta + Decay, a proton converts a proton into a neutron, but it will release a neutrino and a positron.

(Beta +) Decay. Photo by SlidePlayer.

Existing within the body tissues of a human, Potassium-40 is waiting to be extracted and be used as our weapon for annihilating the micro-debris!

But Carlos, you didn't answer my question on why not ask CERN for their antiprotons? Why do you really have to use the positrons from Potassium-40 (Beta +) Decay? 🤔

Positrons > Antiprotons

The reason why I would use the positrons over antiprotons any day of the year is because of how much energy is needed to make positrons and their natural abundance in radioactive isotopes.

To make positrons, it would require less energy because the mass of a positron is less than that of an antiproton.

Comparing Masses of both Matter & Antimatter counterparts. Photo by PhysicsNet

If you notice by looking at the graphs for an antiproton and a positron, you notice that the antiproton’s rest mass is significantly higher than the positron. That is because the positron weighs 2000 times less than the positron, so that means that positrons are 2000 times easier to produce.

That makes more sense! But you mentioned that some isotopes produce positrons naturally! Can you explain that for me, Carlos?

For sure, reader! Everything that we see is made out of matter, but not everything is stable. Some things can be radioactive, and these radioactive objects emit particles and/or atoms. (Beta +) Decay is what emits the positrons that I am seeking for this project.

Some of these radioactive isotopes include:

  • C-11 (Carbon-11)
  • C-14 (Carbon 14)
  • O-15 (Oxygen-15)
  • F-18 (Fluorine-18)
  • Na-22 (Sodium 22)
  • K-40 (Potassium-40)
  • Co-58 (Cobalt-58)
  • Kr-79 (Krypton-79)

Well, that looks like a lot of radioactive isotopes, Carlos! So why K-40?

Only 3 of these isotopes can be found naturally:

  • (C-14)
  • (F-18)
  • (Na-22)
  • (K-40)

All of these isotopes have to be made/manufactured by firing protons into the nucleus of their stable isotopes to be able to continue emitting positrons.

Okay, Carlos! Now we are down to 3 radioactive isotopes! But why still K-40?

Half-Lives For The Win!

Before I answer this question, I want to point out that these isotopes are not that abundant. These 4 isotopes are trace elements/isotopes. This means that they have short half-lives. A half-life of the radioactive isotope is the time it takes for half of the radioactive isotope to decay.

So what does that mean?

The 2 radioactive isotopes that can last for a long time is C-14 & K-40! To prove this: take a look at this graph of the half-life of the radioactive isotope of Carbon-14 (C-14):

C-14 has a half-life of 5,730 years! Photo by WordPress.com

Now, let’s take a look at the half-life of the radioactive isotope of Potassium-40 (K-40)!

(Beta +) Decay in K-40 has a half-life of 1.19 × 10¹⁰ years! Photo by WordPress.com

Wait, Carlos! Are you saying it takes about 1.28 Billion Years for K-40 to go through its half-life? That is a LONG time! Now I see why you want K-40 for the radioactive isotope! But you also mentioned that all the isotopes are trace!

Unfortunately, that is true! K-40 is a trace radioactive isotope! This means that they are very rare! Approximately only 0.012% of naturally occurring Potassium comes from K-40 itself!

Yeah, Carlos, that’s not really a lot of K-40! So what is the point?

That is the point! I am not trying to detonate a bomb in space! We are trying to get rid of the micro-debris to debris the size of a baseball so that we can continue exploring & colonizing space!

Okay, thank you, Carlos, got that cleared up!

But Carlos, what about the cosmic radiation and the heat from your proposed spacecraft?

Also, how are you going to extract K-40 from a person? Isn’t that dangerous?

Answer my questions, Carlos. I’m curious to know about your plan. Photo by ClipartKey.

Closing Thoughts & Next Steps

Well, dear reader, we have come a long way since the start of “Chronicles of Antimatter”. But it is almost time for our journey to come to an end…

Carlos, no! I loved this series! Why can’t you let this series continue!? 😭

Also, what about my questions that I asked? 🤨

Don’t worry, I will! But this will wrap up for Antimatter; I will be progressing to Nanotechnology & Fusion Energy to be able to answer your questions! But if you want more on Antimatter, let me know by contacting me or putting a comment on this article! I liked writing about this series, dear reader!

Okay! :))

Photo by Science ABC.

TL;DR

  • Space Junk could potentially close us from all space exploration & colonization if we don't clean our mess up.
  • Most importantly, the micro-debris will be the most devastating and consequential: the amount of micro-debris in space is over approximately 130 million of them in space, ranging from 1mm-1cm.
  • My idea is we use antimatter in very small amounts to get rid of this micro-debris and some bigger objects by annihilating them with positrons. We will try to annihilate and eliminate objects between 1mm-10cm.
  • The human body emits antimatter, so why do we use particle accelerators? That is because particle accelerators are focusing more on antiprotons, but the human body emits positrons, and positrons are easier to make because of their mass!
  • For the antimatter, we will use K-40 as our radioactive isotope, and K-40 is a radioactive isotope inside of your body tissues! It is one of the few isotopes that can be found naturally, and has a half-life of over a billion years!
  • Unfortunately, there are many challenges to make this a reality; we need to find a way to extract the antimatter, or body tissue, and preserve the K-40 isotope! Then there is radiation, heat, coordination, propulsion system, orbital dynamics, etc. (You get the point.)
  • So for the next 2–3 months, I will be doing a deep dive in Nanotechnology and Fusion Energy to leverage this idea into a feasible project to save the dreams of Space Exploration & Colonization!

Connect: 🔗

LinkedIn

Twitter

cjarquin0005@gmail.com

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Carlos Manuel Jarquín Sánchez

Carlos Manuel Jarquín Sánchez

17 | Building Aquaperla: Extracting Value From Waste(water)