- This article is about the positron particle. For the computer game, see Positron (game).
A positron is the antiparticle of the electron. It is antimatter, has an electric charge of +1, a spin of 1/2, and the same mass as an electron. When a positron annihilates with an electron, their mass is converted into energy in the form of two gamma ray photons. See Electron-positron annihilation.
A positron may be generated by positron emission radioactive decay, or the interaction of photons of energy greater than 1.022 MeV with matter. This process is called pair production, as it generates both an electron and a positron from the energy of the photon.
The existence of positron was first postulated in 1928 by Paul Dirac. In 1932, a positron was observed by Carl D. Anderson, who gave the positron its name. Interestingly, Anderson also suggested, unsuccessfully, to rename electrons to "negatron."
The Positron in Fiction
The most famous use of the positron in fiction was Isaac Asimov's use in his robots' Positronic brains. It is likely that he chose to use positrons because they were relatively newly-discovered when he was first writing about the robots. Perhaps in an homage to Asimov, in the Star Trek universe the android Data, his brother Lore, "daughter" Lal, and other sundry related androids also have Positronic brains.
In Hideaki Anno's Neon Genesis Evangelion, the positron rifle, based upon the ATHENA tests in Europe, is used to defeat the invading Angels on numerous occassions. Positrons might soon, however, be used a source of energy. It is possible to travel to Mars with only about 5 grams of positrons, and it would only take several days to do so.