# How is antimatter produced?

In Star Trek, the fundamental concept of warp drive requires anti-matter and matter combinations to produce the needed energy. Yet, despite this importance, I haven't come across any reference to how antimatter is produced (Memory Alpha contained no hints). So how is antimatter produced in the 23rd or 24th centuries?

• In terms of realistic physics, it's pretty hard to make any sense out of Star Trek's use of antimatter. Any time a ship crashed or was destroyed in battle, the antimatter would be released, and the result would be an explosion big enough to sterilize an entire planet.
– user2490
Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 3:50
• @BenCrowell: Do we know exactly how much antimatter a ship is carrying? Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 8:34
• @PlasmaHH: The Next Gen Technical Manual says on pages 67-68 that they have thirty storage pods with a volume of 100 m^3, for a total supply of 3000 m^3. They also say that antihydrogen is stored as liquid or slush. And liquid hydrogen has a density of 70.85 kg/m^3, so that would work out to 212,550 kg of antihydrogen. That would contain 1.9*10^22 Joules of energy, and double that would be released reacting with matter, about 9 million megatons according to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TNT_equivalent (360,000 H-bombs). Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 12:42
• @PlasmaHH - The energy might be distributed differently but I don't think it'd heat up the atmosphere lethally, the atmosphere has a mass of about 5.3*10^18 kg according to scipp.ucsc.edu/outreach/balloon/atmos/The%20Earth.htm and the average mass of an air molecule is about 4.74*10^-26 kg, so about 1.1*10^44 molecules...adding 1.9*10^22 Joules adds 1.7*10^-22 Joules per molecule, then using the thermodynamic "equipartition theorem" (idealizing the atmosphere as constant temp) we should have (7/2)*kT1 + 1.7*10^-22 = (7/2)*kT2 or (T2 - T1) = (2/7)*(1.7*10^-22)/k = 3.5 degrees C or so. Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 13:54
• If the Enterprise has the same mass as the Queen Elizabeth 2, then to accelerate it up to half the speed of light, you would need about 10^24 J. Assuming the same mass, the amount of energy inferred by Hypnosifl would be enough to get the ship up to about 7% of the speed of light. Re the amount of destruction, you would have to worry about effects analogous to nuclear winter en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_winter , but the Enterprise is clearly the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, and I wouldn't want it in my solar system.
– user2490
Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 1:45

The semi-canonical Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual is deliberately vague on this, just referring to some unknown form of "charge reversal devices" on p. 67, but they do at least specify that Starfleet has special facilities for antimatter production:

As used aboard the USS Enterprise, antimatter is first generated at major Starfleet fueling facilities by combined solar-fusion charge reversal devices, which process proton and neutron beams into antideuterons, and are joined by a positron beam accelerator to produce antihydrogen (specifically antideuterium). Even with the added solar dynamo input, there is a net energy loss of 24% using this process, but this loss is deemed acceptable by Starfleet to conduct distant interstellar operations.

• Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 14:25
• That's cool. That parallels the misunderstanding of hydrogen as an energy source versus bring an energy storage medium... Commented May 14, 2017 at 3:12
• @Chris B. Behrens - In the Trek future hydrogen could be an energy source though, since they do have fusion reactors, and real-life proposals for fusion reactors all involve generating energy from the conversion of hydrogen to heavier atoms. Commented May 30, 2017 at 1:12

Today, very small amounts of antimatter are produced. Most are in the form of positrons, some are produced in the form of anti-protons, and there are a few labs making anti-hydrogen (a full positron/anti-proton pair).

It takes more energy to make it than would be released if it was utilized. This is a basic principle of physics, after all.

There is a nuclear fission principle though, that of the "breeder reaction". They experimented with this sort of nuclear reactor until the 1980s or so. It exploited some weird side reactions, such that as you cooked the uranium (plutonium? I'm not familiar with the details) it also cooked the other radioactive elements in the fuels rods turning them into more fuel.

Hypothetically, if there were a similar reaction for antimatter, such that annihilating it with matter caused nearby particles to convert into antimatter, then you would be able to make more of the stuff easily. It would be sort of like if when using gasoline in a internal combustion engine it caused the air to spontaneously turn into gasoline. Only, with antimatter there might be some formulation of this that didn't necessarily violate entropy.

I've also read other theories that suppose that you might "rotate" normal matter through higher dimensions, such that when it reappeared to us in our dimension it would have become antimatter. Of course, every few weeks someone is claiming that there are 30 higher dimensions or none, so this might be bunk too.

Star Trek itself has mostly been silent on the details of its own process, for the same reason that we never see the cops on Law and Order ever bother to fill up the gas tanks of their department-issued vehicles.

Definitely in the original series a reference is dropped in i believe "The Mark of Gideon" that the Enterprise regenerates its own power.

I always thought it was canon that once initially fueled, Federation starships used their own power and equipment to keep making more anti matter, obviously using less energy to make it than it eventually produced.

• Can you provide a quote that identifies antimatter being produced? Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 8:14
• just a little more than half way down the script on this page chakoteya.net/StarTrek/72.htm (you can search for this in the page yourself) kirk and odona are having this conversation: ODONA: And we're alone. Can you make it last a long, long time? KIRK: How long would you like it to last? ODONA: Forever. KIRK: Well, let's see. Power, that's no problem, it regenerates. clearly the enterprise regenerates its own power, antimatter is the power source for the enterprise, ergo ipso the enterprise makes its own antimatter. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 0:13

In Star Trek, they have devices which reverses the quantum numbers. To be clear, quantum numbers are a conserved quantity in the standard model just like energy is. Matter, known as fermions, are separate from antimatter, known as antifermions, based on these quantum numbers: Electric charge. Color charge. Baryon number. Lepton number. Lepton family number. Spin. Angular momentum.

These numbers must not change in either sign or magnitude in any quantum interaction. This is the case, which prevents the creation of antimatter and matter in unequal quantities.

"Quantum charge reversal devices," therefore, would violate conservation of baryon number, electric charge, etc. " flipping" matter into antimatter.

• Hi, welcome to the site. Is this answer based on canon evidence? If so, please edit it to quote and/or site your sources, and include any related links. It would greatly improve this answer. You might also want to take the tour, to learn more about the site in general. Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 7:17

I think we must assume starships regularly hang in close orbit around stars, there converting solar energy into matter and antimatter (and storing the antimatter). Stars have loads of energy. But the trick is carrying this compact form of energy between stars. Between stars, one can't just convert a natural and close source of solar energy into antimatter since the nearest source of energy is often many light years away. Between stars, the energy is too weak and it would take too long to gather sufficient energy to make any appreciable amount of antimatter. Thus, starships (not shown actually doing this since it's boring, like filling up at a gas station) collect solar energy whenever they are low on antimatter and close to a star and they have time, and thus produce and store antimatter for later use between stars. How long this takes, we do not know, but we must further assume it does not take too long and they have highly efficient solar energy converters. Otherwise, you'd have to account for huge time lags in the story while they did this.

• The question is how is antimatter produced, not where. An answer would need to include a reference to cannon information. Commented May 14, 2017 at 2:18