In a previous question, it was established that antimatter could be "mined" through positron-emitting isotopes.

By gathering positrons from decaying positron-emitting isotopes (potassium-40 and aluminum-26, for example) that could be found around young stars, you would have antimatter that was far less expensive than synthesized antimatter. This could allow for an antimatter power system that puts out more energy than was put into making its fuel.

Assuming that proper containment and isolation of positrons was already figured out, is there is a way to manipulate the decay of positron-emitting isotopes such as Potassium-40? Either by increasing the rate of decay or manipulating the chance of beta plus decay?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ If there's a will, there's a way. The real question is whether the methods to manipulate these positron-decaying substances will cost less energy than the energy gained from the subsequent antimatter. Back to square one? $\endgroup$
    – user44399
    Dec 16, 2017 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ Possibly. The alternative is just having a large quantity of lower half-life isotopes on hand to gather positrons from. $\endgroup$
    – Arvex
    Dec 16, 2017 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ The amount of energy it takes to create anti-matter may not be a major problem if it's more then what the anti-mater produces as fuel. Things such as space and weight may have more constraint. You could use most the ( conventional ) electricity output of a planet to create anti-matter, package it on a ship and then use it. The ship wouldn't care that it got less power out then was put in, because it could never produce the energy required in any situation. And the weight and space savings would offset the loss of power in the initial investment. Lighter ship takes less power. $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2017 at 2:00
  • $\begingroup$ In this way you could think of anti-mater as a really good "Battery" to store that conventionally produced energy in. $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2017 at 2:06
  • $\begingroup$ Having been the one that suggested capturing positrons from beta-plus decay, I would also suggest that there is no way of capturing them more practical than magic. If you want that to be part of your story, you should probably just say it works because it does. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Dec 17, 2017 at 3:13

1 Answer 1


Potassium-40 undergoes three different modes of decay (Beta decay, Positron decay, and Electron Capture decay) -- but based on your question, you're primarily concerned about the containment and isolation of positrons.

To date, there's been little progress made towards manipulation of any atomic decay rates -- however, there have been some limited discoveries. One recorded that exposure to the sun increasing radioactive decay rates, due to gamma radiation.

There's also been some debate as to whether or not gravity has an effect on decay rates as well. There used to be a research paper regarding this from the US Naval Academy, but it's no longer available.

Not sure if any of that helps, but hopefully it lends itself towards developing a solid, fictional basis for positron mining within your universe.


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