It powered the warp-drive spaceships of Star Trek and was the deadly ingredient of the mega bomb in Dan Brown's Angels and Demons. Now scientists have produced and trapped antimatter for the first time.
Antimatter is identical to matter, except that everything within its atoms is the opposite way round, with negative charge being positive and left becoming right.
When antimatter comes into contact with matter, it vanishes without trace, except for the energy left behind. But physicists at Geneva's European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) have now made 38 atoms of antihydrogen, which they stored for more than a 10th of a second – an eternity in this field of science – before the antimatter disappeared when it reacted with ordinary matter.
"[It] is an incredibly small amount: nothing like what we would need to power the Enterprise or heat a cup of coffee," said Rob Thompson of Calgary University in Canada, who took part in the study. "This is a major discovery. It could enable experiments that result in dramatic changes to the current view of fundamental physics."