Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Energy to Matter
Name: Jeremy
Status: educator
Age: 20s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2000-2001


Question:
If matter can be "converted" to energy, as suggested by the theory of relativity, can energy be alternately "converted" to matter? what conditions are needed to carry out this process? Also.. if particles could be created by this process, is there a way to form matter that is stable? Or would all matter formed thus be prone to decay?


Replies:
Yes. This happens all the time in the target area of a particle accelerator. Both stable and unstable particles can be made in this way. You always make particle-antiparticle pairs, so you need energy equivalent to twice the rest mass of a particle to get anything.

Tim Mooney


Matter can be formed from energy.

One example of this is reverse beta-decay. If an electron, an anti-neutrino, and a proton come together with enough kinetic energy, they may join into a neutron. The neutron has more mass than the original three particles. If the neutron is within an atom, it may stay put.

A more dramatic example is the stream of particles that come from a nuclear explosion. Much of the original mass turns into energy. Afterwards some of the energy turns into mass, many of them particles that did not exist within the original nuclear fuel.

Mellendorf


No, once matter is converted to energy, it is used. Energy is converted into mechanical or electrical energy or just lost to the atmosphere as heat energy. This is why there are people trying to figure out new forms of energy -- because fossil fuels and the like will eventually run out.

Katie Page



Click here to return to the Physics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory