Antimatter in Earth's magnetosphere, which was only a theoretical possibility so far, has been proved to be present in the form of a significant flux of antiprotons, generated by nuclear interactions of energetic cosmic rays with the terrestrial atmosphere. The trapped antiproton energy spectrum in the South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) region has been measured by the PAMELA experiment for the kinetic energy range 60-750 MeV.
Is Antimatter the Next Big Thing?
Theoretically, Yes. Practically, well, we will have to wait and see. According to predictions of a research paper titled "Extraction of Antiparticles concentrated in planetary magnetic fields" by James Bickford, Principal Investigator, NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase II, Year 1 report published in August 2007, annihilation of antimatter generates energy, "about 1010 times more efficient than chemical reactions and 102 -103 times more efficient than nuclear reactions."
"To put this in perspective, the annihilation of 1 kg of antimatter releases the energy equivalent to 30 million barrels of oil. The total worldwide energy consumption per year corresponds to approximately 2200 kg of antimatter."
Antimatter energy can also cut down government expenditure on space missions. "The extremely high-energy content and other properties of antiparticles enable new applications in both space and on Earth. In particular, the annihilation of antimatter with its regular matter counterpart enables extremely high-performance space propulsion systems."
The anti-particles' use wouldn't be confined to fueling space missions or building deadlier explosives. Antiprotons can be used to image the interior of solids. "Material properties and their distribution in the solid can be determined by examining the annihilation products. (Forward and Davis, 1988) This has profound implications in both medical diagnostics and homeland security," says James Bickford.
What more, researchers say "picogram quantities of antiprotons could be used in locally treating inoperable tumors" (Gray and Kalogeropoulos, 1982). From a science perspective, "Improving the availability of antimatter will allow new experiments to be performed to confirm theoretical predictions in atomic and gravitational physics."
As we can see, the above predictions are mere possibilities and there is a long way ahead for scientists before antimatter could be put to practical use.
Though humans have been able to trap antimatter, it has only been for 1000 seconds which roughly translates into a little more than 16 minutes. While one can be quite sure that scientists will trap antimatter for longer time, studying the implications of antiparticles, controlling and manipulating it for practical use, are not going to be easy.