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The most expensive substance on Earth 'costs $62 trillion for just one gram'

Rachel Lang

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The most expensive substance on Earth 'costs $62 trillion for just one gram'

Featured Image Credit: Sony/New Line Cinema

Most people would think diamonds or gold are the world's most expensive substances. But they'd be very, very wrong.

The world's most expensive substance is actually antimatter.

Yep, that mysterious thing that has plagued scientists for decades is a mega-pricey thing.

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It was featured in the 2009 movie Angels & Demons, which starred Tom Hanks. The plot of the film really wasn't playing around when they said if it comes into contact with anything made of matter (so, pretty much everything) then everything goes ka-boom.

CERN's Large Hadron Collider is one expensive dude to run. Credit:  Zoonar GmbH / Alamy
CERN's Large Hadron Collider is one expensive dude to run. Credit: Zoonar GmbH / Alamy

The key difference is that it has the opposite electrical charge and, boy-oh-boy, the two opposing forces do not like each other.

But, while regular matter is the most common thing since, well, matter, antimatter is astonishingly rare.

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It can only be manufactured using CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is, in part, why it is so expensive.

All the way back in 1999, NASA scientists predicted it would cost around $62 trillion to make one gram of antihydrogen or antimatter.

Well, the space boffins were pretty much spot on.

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According to Steven Farmer, author of the 2017 book Strange Chemistry, the price tag is around $62.5 trillion per gram, unadjusted for inflation.

That price tag is fairly impressive considering the masanational Monetary Fund projects the value of the entire world's economy will hit $104 trillion by the end of 2022.

But, although it's astronomically expensive, it's also a remarkably useful and very unstable substance.

If harnessed in a way that isn't bonkers-levels of dangerous, antimatter acts as an incredible energy source, as per Interesting Engineering.

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So much so, that some believe it may fuel intergalactic space travel.

For now, though, tiny amounts of it are used in positron emission tomography (PET) scanners, a form of medical imaging used by doctors to look at certain functions like blood flow.

An astrophysics concept of a particle collision in the LHC. Credit: vchal / Alamy.
An astrophysics concept of a particle collision in the LHC. Credit: vchal / Alamy.

So why is it so expensive? Well, it all comes down to the technology involved in creating it.

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The CERN LHC is one expensive bad boy to operate.

According to Science To Go, it costs about $1 billion per year to run, with electricity costs alone running at $23.5 million per year.

For the particle collision to occur to create antimatter, they need to get up to a speed of 99.99 per cent of the speed of light.

That uses enough electricity to power a large city, so that explains the staggering power bills over at CERN.

Oh, and to create a whole gram, Science To Go says it'd take about 100 billion years.

So yeah, now it makes sense why the cost of antimatter is so damn high.

Topics: News, Science, Weird

Rachel Lang
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