New Energy Forms

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In particle physics, antimatter extends the concept of the antiparticle to matter, wherein if a particle and its antiparticle come into contact with each other, the two annihilate or cause the equivalent to a nuclear explosion, similar to nuclear fission —that is, they may both be converted into other particles with equal energy in accordance with Einstein's equation E = mc2. This gives rise to high-energy photons (gamma rays) or other particle–antiparticle pairs. The resulting particles are endowed with an amount of kinetic energy equal to the difference between the rest mass of the products of the annihilation and the rest mass of the original particle-antiparticle pair, which is often quite large.

Antimatter is not found naturally on Earth, except very briefly and in ephemerally small quantities (as the result of radioactive decay or cosmic rays). This is because antimatter which comes to exist on Earth outside the confines of a suitably equipped physics laboratory would inevitably come into contact with the ordinary matter that Earth is made of, and be annihilated. Antiparticles and some stable antimatter (such as antihydrogen) can be made in minuscule amounts, but not in enough quantity to do more than test a few of its theoretical properties.

There is considerable speculation both in science and science fiction as to why the observable universe is apparently almost entirely matter, whether other places are almost entirely antimatter instead, and what might be possible if antimatter could be harnessed, but at this time the apparent asymmetry of matter and antimatter in the visible universe is one of the great unsolved problems in physics. Possible processes by which it came about are explored in more detail under baryogenesis.

Dark Matter

In astrophysics and cosmology, dark matter is matter, not directly observed and of unknown composition, that does not emit or reflect enough electromagnetic radiation to be detected directly, but whose presence can be inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter. According to the Standard Model, dark matter accounts for the vast majority of mass in the observable universe. Among the observed phenomena consistent with the hypothesis of dark matter are the rotational speeds of galaxies and orbital velocities of galaxies in clusters, gravitational lensing of background objects by galaxy clusters such as the Bullet cluster, and the temperature distribution of hot gas in galaxies and clusters of galaxies. Dark matter also plays a central role in structure formation and Big Bang nucleosynthesis, and has measurable effects on the anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background. All these lines of evidence suggest that galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and the universe as a whole contain far more matter than is directly observable, indicating that the remainder is dark.

The composition of dark matter is unknown, but may include new elementary particles such as WIMPs, axions, and ordinary and heavy neutrinos, as well as astronomical bodies such as dwarf stars, planets collectively called MACHOs, and clouds of nonluminous gas. Current evidence favors models in which the primary component of dark matter is new elementary particles, collectively called non-baryonic dark matter.

The dark matter component has vastly more mass than the "visible" component of the universe. At present, the density of ordinary baryons and radiation in the universe is estimated to be equivalent to about one hydrogen atom per cubic metre of space. Only about 4% of the total energy density in the universe (as inferred from gravitational effects) can be seen directly. About 22% is thought to be composed of dark matter. The remaining 74% is thought to consist of dark energy, an even stranger component, distributed diffusely in space. Some hard-to-detect baryonic matter makes a contribution to dark matter, but constitutes only a small portion. Determining the nature of this missing mass is one of the most important problems in modern cosmology and particle physics. It has been noted that the names "dark matter" and "dark energy" serve mainly as expressions of our ignorance, much as the marking of early maps with terra incognita.


Nanotechnology is an umbrella term that is used to describe a variety of techniques to fabricate materials and devices on the nanoscale. The genesis for nanotechnology has its roots in the colloidal science of the late 19th century. These early innovations have been combined with more recent developments in device manufacture. The term has served in some regards as a means to generate new lines of funding from government agencies. One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 10-9 of a meter. For comparison, typical carbon-carbon bond lengths, or the spacing between these atoms in a molecule, are in the range .12-.15 nm, and a DNA double-helix has a diameter around 2 nm. On the other hand, the smallest cellular lifeforms, the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, are around 200 nm in length.

Nanotechnological techniques include those used for fabrication of nanowires, those used in semiconductor fabrication such as deep ultraviolet lithography, electron beam lithography, focused ion beam machining, nanoimprint lithography, atomic layer deposition, and molecular vapor deposition, and further including molecular self-assembly techniques such as those employing di-block copolymers. However, all of these techniques preceded the nanotech era, and are extensions in the development of scientific advancements rather than techniques which were devised with the sole purpose of creating nanotechnology or which were results of nanotechnology research.

General fields involved with proper characterization of these systems include physics, chemistry, and biology, as well as mechanical and electrical engineering. However, due to the inter- and multidisciplinary nature of nanotechnology, subdisciplines such as physical chemistry, materials science, or biomedical engineering are considered significant or essential components of nanotechnology. The design, synthesis, characterization, and application of materials are dominant concerns of nanotechnologists. The manufacture of polymers based on molecular structure, or the design of computer chip layouts based on surface science are examples of nanotechnology in modern use. Colloidal suspensions also play an essential role in nanotechnology.

Technologies currently branded with the term 'nano' are little related to and fall far short of the most ambitious and transformative technological goals of the sort in molecular manufacturing proposals, but the term still connotes such ideas. Thus there may be a danger that a "nano bubble" will form from the use of the term by scientists and entrepreneurs to garner funding, regardless of (and perhaps despite a lack of) interest in the transformative possibilities of more ambitious and far-sighted work. The above prediction has come to pass, as by 2006 over $400 million has been invested in Nanotechnology, mostly by venture capital, with very meager results. From this perspective, Nanotechnology may be viewed as a collection of wishful predictions, aimed at generating unwarranted excitement among venture capitalists.

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