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Assuming the wars of the far, far future aren't either fought exclusively by unmanned spacecraft/robots/drones or in ways so incomprehensible to us that comparisons are meaningless, the only foolproof way to increase the power of an infrantryman's weapons are to make the switch to laser and energy weapons, which can produce a theoretically arbitrary (or at least very high) muzzle energy. But the problem with man-portable energy weapons, especially those in excess of a few megajoules or (dare we dream) gigajoules is how to power them. Presumably the people of the future will have perfected the means of creating antimatter cheaply and efficiently to the point where it can be miniaturized and even weaponized.

But is it safe?

How would the soldiers, commanders and generals of the far future prevent their antimatter batteries from turning into antimatter warheads, and how would they prevent their antimatter warheads from turning friendlies into casualties when their Penning traps are breached in an attack by the enemy? Is there a way to render such devices inert in the event of damage to their EM containment fields or does the very nature of antimatter make any device utilizing it for power one stray laser blast away from a bomb?

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  • $\begingroup$ Safe is relative, consider the LiPo battery for example. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Sep 20 '16 at 8:01
  • $\begingroup$ I would suggest using a spontaneous approach meaning only invoke the creation of antimatter when needed, how to do it you ask I must consult with my future descendants using gravitational wave service. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Sep 20 '16 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ Have you looked at what our current armed forces do? While we don't have ungodly powerful weapons at the fingertips of every infantryman, a surprisingly large amount of attention goes into making sure that an unlucky hit doesn't cause your entire powder keg to go up in flames. I would expect any reasonable answer to your question would include the same basic safeguards that we use today. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Sep 20 '16 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ Keep in mind, 1microgram antimatter+1microgram matter approximately puts out energy equivalent to 43kilograms of TNT. Careful how much your batteries. You'd need to keep the two components well separated . . . or 43 kilos of TNT just went off in a single battery. That's1.8x10^8 Joules. $\endgroup$ – FoxElemental May 2 '18 at 21:03
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I don't think there's a way to safely store antimatter in a world made of matter. Maybe you could produce it at the moment through Hawking Radiation from a very small vaporizing Black Hole?

Actually an interesting source of energy could be the last phase of a Black Hole evaporation. For very small BHs the evaporation time is tiny (Wiki cites 10^-40 s for a Planck mass BH, see also Micro_black_hole on Wiki) and the BH temperature constantly increases producing a final burst of Gamma rays. The problem could be the creation of a micro BHs without a huge accelerator like LHC but the use of some exotic particle could be a way (someone said "Dark Matter accumulator"? ;) While the technical problems to use this power source for civil use are huge their application in a military context could be reasonable.

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Ok, so I'm no physicist and can't give you a lengthy explanation here.

Why not put your Penning trap into the muzzle of your weapon? Creating your energy bolt immediately before firing seems to be to be safer than having it buzz around in a backpack waiting to be punctured by a stray (or not so stray)round.

Your fuel would then be a lot less angry and need less energy to contain it prior to firing.

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  • $\begingroup$ This would make weapon an one-shot. And wouldn't really solve anything, backpack of ammo can explode as readily as backpack of single-shot guns. How this would be less energy? The same number of shots would require the same amount of antimatter and thus the same amount of stored energy. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Sep 20 '16 at 10:31
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I have a different proposal, if anti-matter is not essential to your story, use matter annihilator. A device that would convert matter into energy without the use of anti-matter. This is a safe way of producing energy and will net the same amount of energy per gram as anti-matter storage. Obviously one of the biggest advantage is that you can use any matter. And the conversion rate is out of this world, 1 gram of matter will net you 90 TJ of power (Hiroshima bomb was 63 TJ).

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    $\begingroup$ This would, however, have all kinds of unintended consequences on the world. If you had portable devices cheap enough to outfit an army with that can essentially give you unlimited free energy, you have to start asking all sorts of questions about the fundamental structure of society. Ideas like war as we know it would be obsolete. $\endgroup$ – Elukka Sep 20 '16 at 11:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Elukka There are lots of reasons to have war; stop injustice, gain territory, "because of what he said about our mum", etc. Unlimited "free" energy would definitely help a lot though, since it would solve problems with starvation, famine, etc. It just wouldn't remove the human problem, which is something wars are good at doing. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Sep 20 '16 at 15:26
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    $\begingroup$ How do you make a matter annihilator without antimatter? The whole point of using antimatter is to build a matter annihilator that would fuel the weapon. You can't simple make matter go poof and generate power from nowhere. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Sep 20 '16 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ Efficient creation of antimatter can provide unlimited energy with a bit of upfront investment. Put huge orbital solar panels, convert that energy into anti-matter and ship to earth. $\endgroup$ – Cem Kalyoncu Sep 20 '16 at 16:13
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    $\begingroup$ @CemKalyoncu You said to not use antimatter. I don't understand what you most recent comment has to do with your answer. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Sep 20 '16 at 16:14
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The point is, if you are using a weapon that can shoot five laser beams per clip, with each laser beam carrying around 1 gigajoule of energy...

Then your clips have, at least and assuming 100% efficiency, five gigajoules of energy.

That's a ridiculous amount of energy to carry. Doesn't matter if you are using anti-matter or not, high-powered batteries are dangerous. Modern batteries have several self-regulating mechanisms that work really hard to keep the energy inside it stable. The energy on a battery wants to go out, and wants do so explosively, most of the time! With such an amount of energy, it becomes almost impossible to make a stable, safe battery that is to be carried around by a soldier on the battlefield.

Laser Weapons are fancy and really interesting from a sci-fi point of view, but really, they are really, really hard to explain in a hard-science way.

My suggestion to you is that, if you want to keep you laser weapons, don't try to explain the power source. Handwaving the source of the pew-pews worked for Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, it may work for you too!

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    $\begingroup$ A key law of physics that's important to this answer: energy cannot be created nor destroyed. If you have a great deal of potential energy, and you want to render it "inert," you must dissipate that energy. It matters not whether it happens to be bound up in antimatter or not. If you need to dissipate a gigajoule in 1 second, you need to be prepared to deal with a gigawatt of heat generation. If you have 1000 seconds, you need to be prepared to deal with a megawatt of heat generation during those 1000 seconds. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Sep 20 '16 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon That's correct! That's why describing power sources for weapons of fiction is hard - they have to deliver a lot of energy, and still be safe! $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Sep 20 '16 at 18:50

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