Magmatter

Superstrong exotic matter made from various monopole particles

Daleth Orbital
Image from Steve Bowers
Magmatter reinforcement makes the construction of very large scale megastructures possible, such as this diurnal (Banks) orbital

Magmatter is a form of exotic matter which is made up of extremely small atom-like particles, which themselves are made up of a number of different types of topological vacuum defects known as monopoles. Magmatter "atoms" are much smaller than atoms of ordinary matter; for this reason magmatter is much denser. Because of the much higher binding energy holding the atoms together, magmatter is also much stronger than ordinary matter and has other useful properties However the difficulties associated with its manufacture and use, and because of safety issues concerning its proximity to normal matter, almost all magmatter creation and manipulation technology can only be used by third singularity transapients and above.




Magtrons and Magnuclei

Each type of monopole has a specific range of conserved topological qualities, the most important of which is magcharge. This fundamental unit of magnetic charge has a value of 137/2 times the fundamental unit of the electric charge, the charge on the electron. Monopoles of the type known as 'magtrons' can have a magcharge of -1, and this is the lightest magcharged particle. The magtron has a +1 or -1 magcharge and a mass of 1.5 TeV/c2. The types known as "magnuclei" can have multiple units of magnetic charge, typically from +1 magcharge up to +12, although it is possible to create magnucleons with higher magcharges. Negatively charged magnuclei also exist, but they are rarely used. Magnuclei have a mass of around 10 TeV/c)2 per magcharge. These two types of monopole, magtrons and magnuclei do not annihilate each other. On the other hand, just as electrons and protons have an antiparticle the two kinds of monopole have their antiparticles (the bar-magtron and the bar-magnucleon family) and if a monopole encountered its own antiparticle that results in annihilation for both particles. Monopoles are entropically disfavored in high energy physics reactions - they are only very rarely, if ever created in accelerators and need fine control over vacuum topology for their creation. Once created, however, both magtrons and magnuclei are stable. Both magtrons and magnuclei are fermions and are believed to be composed of a bosonic magnetic monopole and a neutral fermion.

If a magtron meets a magnucleus, they bind together. Based on the strong magnetic charges combined with the high magtron mass, one would expect magatoms to bind with an approximate energy of 300 TeV. At short distances, however, the magnetic charge is strongly screened out by an effect known as vacuum magnetic polarization which limits pure magnetic forces to MeV binding energies. The magmatter monopoles are also bound by an additional short-range interaction mediated by the Higgs field. Inside magatoms, this interaction is much stronger than the magnetic force. Magatoms have binding energies of approximately 300 GeV. Thanks to the Higgs-boson binding, which is always attractive regardless of the magnetic charge, magatoms with equal magnetic charges of magtron and magnucleus can form. They are very rare, because in order to form such an atom, very strong repulsive magnetic forces have to be overcome.

Negative and positive magnuclei can also form magatoms that are approximately 10 to 50 times smaller than the magtron-based magatoms. They are much more difficult to use as a construction material because different magnuclei are not subject to the Pauli exclusion principle, which in most cases prevents formation of more complex molecules. The rest of the article refers to magtron-based magatoms.

Magmatter Scale and Strength

The smallest magatoms have diameters of 3E-19 m, 300 million times smaller than an atom of conventional matter. As a typical magatom is 10,000 times heavier than a typical conventional atom, magmatter’s typical density is 1E33 kg/m3. Since force is energy per unit distance, the force needed to break a magchemical bond is larger than that needed to break an electronic chemical bond by a factor of the energy scaling (300 GeV / 13.7 eV) divided by the length scaling, or 7 million trillion (7E18). The strength of a material is usually defined as the force per unit area required to make the material fail. Since each magchemical bond can withstand 7E18 times greater force, and there are (300 million)2 times more bonds per unit area, the strength of magmatter is about 8E35 times greater than that of its normal matter equivalent.

For applications where high strength materials are required, the relevant parameter is usually the strength per unit mass (if you have a weak but very light material, you can compensate for low strength by using a lot of the stuff, and maybe still end up with a lighter weight structure than if you used a strong but dense material). Strength per unit mass is usually measured by the free breaking length, or how tall a structure of the given material can be in a homogeneous gravity field of 1G before it collapses under its own weight. It is proportional to the binding energy ratio (300 GeV / 13.7 eV) and inversely proportional to the ratio of magatom masses (10,000). The free breaking length is therefore approximately 2 million times longer than that of an equivalent conventional mass. While typical magmatter materials have free breaking lengths of approximately 200 million kilometers, materials with free breaking lengths up to 20 billion kilometers are known. This means that magmatter has the tensile strength required to hold a Banks orbital or even a Ringworld together.

Magmatter Chemistry

Although magmatter particles are fermions and form large structures with typical binding angles similar to molecules, the mechanisms behind magatom bonding are very different. Unlike normal chemistry, where simple quantum mechanics and single-particle approximations are enough to successfully model molecular properties, similar predictions for magmatter are much more complicated as full quantum field theory and multiparticle approaches are needed. Combined with difficulties in performing experiments with magmatter, this leaves magmatter constructions in the hands of higher transapients. Despite this, modosophont researchers have often appropriated names from regular chemistry to refer to magmatter structures with similar properties, for example magcarbon for tetravalent magatoms forming large molecules.

Typical melting points of almost all magmatter substances are above 1E13 K. This means that under normal conditions, magmatter is always very close to absolute zero and magatoms are always sitting in the optimal-energy positions in the lattice. Probably the biggest challenge in magmatter technology is to provide high enough temperatures for functions that require quick restructuralization of magmatter crystals.

Interactions Between Magmatter and Normal Matter

Experience of the everyday world suggests that one chunk of matter should not be able to interpenetrate another chunk. This comes from our experience with matter that is held together by electrons. Electrons have the property that no two may occupy the same space at the same time (unless they have different spin states). If you push your hand against a table, the electrons in your hand can't occupy the same space as the electrons in the table, so they bunch up, the electric field strength increases, this requires energy, and so the table pushes back on your hand.

Electrons can occupy the same space and time as a magmatter monopole. So can protons and neutrons and all the other particles that make up normal matter. There is nothing to prevent normal matter from just moving through a chunk of magmatter. If the monopoles had an electric field, there could be interactions that might repel or attract normal matter, but they do not.
There are several excitation states of monopoles called dyons that posses an electric charge, but they are unstable and therefore magmatter in electrically neutral in its normal state. Primary interactions between normal matter and magmatter are all absent.

Monopoles do have a magnetic field. This can interact with matter to some extent. In fact, due to the strength of the magnetic field, this interaction of normal matter with a lone monopole can be approximately the strength of a chemical bond. The interaction of matter with magnetic fields can be divided up into several categories.

  • Diamagnetic matter repels and is repelled from magnetic fields. Most matter is diamagnetic. Free monopoles will avoid diamagnetic matter, being repelled from its volume. This is not a strong interaction, but is significant enough to prevent free monopoles from getting lodged in most forms of matter.
  • Paramagnetic matter attracts and is attracted to magnetic fields. Liquid oxygen, for example, is one of the strongest common paramagnets. Free monopoles are attracted to paramagnetic stuff, and can get stuck inside it. However (and this is important) all core electrons are diamagnetic, so that free monopoles will tend to stay away from the atomic cores and the nucleus.
  • Ferromagnetic matter strongly attracts and is attracted to magnets. Iron, nickel, and cobalt are all ferromagnets, and are used to make household magnets. Free monopoles are attracted to ferromagnets, and will bond to them with something on the order of chemical bond strength.
  • Antiferromagnets have no strong macroscopic magnetic interaction, but they have a microscopic magnetic ordering. Free monopoles are strongly repelled from antiferromagnets.
  • Superconductors are strongly repelled from, and repel, any magnetic field. Free monopoles are strongly repelled from a superconductor.
All the above assumes free monopoles. When monopoles bind together into a magatom, the opposite magcharges screen each other to make a composite structure that, on the scale of a normal atom, is magnetically neutral. A single neutral magatom or magmolecule would pass through normal matter as if it were not there. The exception would be a magatom or magmolecule with a net electric dipole moment. Just as some normal atoms act like tiny bar magnets, so some magatoms act like tiny bar electrets. The electric field polarizes the surrounding matter, binding weakly to it.

Stability of normal matter in contact with magmatter

The Callan-Rubakov mechanism for baryon catalysis is present for GUT type monopoles, but not present in monopoles derived from the latter stages of symmetry breaking. This means that GUT monopoles/dyons can catalyze baryon decay (and are thus useful for energy production in Conversion reactors and Conversion Drive propulsion), but the monopoles found in the dense substrate known as magmatter are non-catalyzing. Magmatter is therefore relatively stable and easy to handle when bound with conventional matter while still maintaining its useful properties of magnetic charge and great density.

Mag-polymer 'buckytubes'

Magmatter and Normal Matter Buckytube
Image from Steve Bowers
Individual carbon nanotubes, the strongest form of normal matter, can support roughly a micronewton, and mass about 1E-15 kg/m. Mag-polymer 'buckytubes' are not direct analogs of carbon nanotubes, but they do have similar properties. They can support about 1E11 N and mass about 0.5 grams per meter, but would be nearly five billion times thinner. On the scale of the diagram above, a single strand of mag-polymer buckytube would be too small to see. In use, a magmatter tube would be bound magnetically into a crystal of normal matter, such as steel, producing a form of reinforced hybrid matter.
Increasing the dimension by one produces the magnetic equivalent of nanotubes. Nanotubes have been made out of a wide variety of atoms and molecules of normal matter, the magnetic analogues also exist. Mag-polymers behave in a similar fashion to the nanotubes, being long stringy magmolecules. On the scale of normal atoms, these are magnetically neutral and have no electric dipole moment. They pass through matter as if it were not there.

For many purposes, it is desirable for the stringy magmolecules to interact with normal matter. This can be accomplished by magchemically bonding magatoms or magmolecules with differing magnetonegativities to the nanotube or polymer. These must be spaced about a normal atom's width apart. The more magnetonegative species will collect magtrons and thus a negative magnetic charge from the magmolecular string, while the less magnetonegative species will lose magtrons and acquire a positive magcharge. This allows the magnetically charged bits to bind to normal matter. By laying the string along one of the crystal axes, the diamagnetic atomic cores will keep the string away from any nuclei, allowing the string to stick to paramagnets and ferromagnets. Stronger anchoring can be also achieved by using magmolecules with net magnetic charge.

Strong ferromagnetic materials are preferred for anchoring monopolium strings (usually some form of steel, for its ferromagnetic properties and material strength, toughness, and hardness). Note that strings will rip out from the ferromagnetic anchor long before they themselves break. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the weak link in this case is the matter-monopole interaction.

Increasing the dimensionality to two, one creates monolayers, such as mag-graphene sheets. Again, the magnetic charge is screened and there is no electric dipole moment. Normal matter will pass through these sheets as if they are not there, with a notable exception.with a notable exception. About one in 1000 nuclei will encounter a monopole for each sheet that the normal atom passes through, causing that nucleus to disintegrate. A sheet of monopoles makes a very effective matter disintegrator, turning any material that passes through it into an x-ray hot plasma while emitting copious quantities of gamma rays and pions. Adding side groups with different electronegativities allows a sheet of mag-graphene to be placed between two atomic layers of a crystal. Practical applications of extended sheets of magmatter are limited, additionally, by their extreme mass. Mag-graphene, for example, masses about 3E14 kg/m)2.

Increasing the dimensionality further results in bulk magmatter, such as liquids, crystals, and amorphous solids. For most purposes, these may be treated as a whole multiple layers of monopolium sheets, except that doping the material with different magnetonegative species will not help it bind to matter. Bulk magmatter is so dense that even a relatively small solid mass will collapse into a black hole.

Volume of a sphere V =4/3.pi.R^3;
Definition of density ρ = M/V;
Schwarzschild radius R^2 = 3 c^2 / 8 pi ρ G;

Magmatter, with typical density 1E33 kg/m3, produces a Schwarzschild radius of about 0.4 millimeters, which is just a bit larger than that of the Earth’s Moon (0.1 mm). That is to say, a black hole with the mass of the Moon would be a tenth of a millimetre across.

Thorne's Hoop Conjecture specifies that an object of a given mass will not collapse into a black hole unless it is compressed to a circumference less than 2π times it's Schwarzschild radius in any given rotational axis (i.e. all three spatial dimensions). In other words, as long as the mass of magmatter is smaller than one Lunar mass, no collapse is possible. Larger masses must be longer than 2.5 mm in any direction; thus to avoid collapse magmatter is always configured as strings and thin coatings. Magmatter materials with different densities have different Schwarzschild radii.

Since the magnetic fields between magatoms and the veneer of conventional matter utterly dominate gravity, magmatter and magmatter + conventional matter won't collapse gravitationally by itself unless directly manipulated into a ball of its Schwarzschild radius. For reference, gravity is about 10E36 times weaker than the electromagnetic force, whereas the "magtronic" force is 137/2 times stronger due to the increased value of the fundamental magnetic charge compared to the fundamental electric charge.

Interactions with Electromagnetic Radiation

...in Normal Matter

When electromagnetic radiation is incident on normal matter, the electric fields in the radiation push and pull on the charged particles that constitute the matter. If the frequency of the radiation resonates with a particular vibrational mode of a molecule or condensed substance, the radiation can pull and push on the atoms to get the molecule or condensed substance vibrating; absorbing some of the radiation in the process. For most molecules, these vibrational frequencies correspond to mid to far infrared light, at a few hundredths of an eV in energy. In condensed matter, elastic waves through the bulk can vibrate at arbitrarily low frequencies, allowing absorption of all frequencies of radiation below the mid infrared (although for many frequencies, this absorption may be very weak).

If the frequency of the radiation is resonant with an electronic transition, the radiation can be absorbed while moving electrons to more energetic states. Typical electronic transition frequencies correspond to visible and near infrared light, or from about 1 to 10eV energy. In conductors, the charge carriers are free to move and individually collect energy from the radiation, allowing possible absorption mechanisms at arbitrarily small energies and thus allowing electronic absorption at arbitrarily low frequencies.

In addition to absorption, there is an effect known as screening which as a significant influence on radiation. Consider a metal, where the charge carriers (electrons) are free to move around. If a static electric field is applied to the metal, the electrons will move in response to the field, piling up in the direction of the positive field and becoming depleted in the direction of the negative field. This separation of charge creates an "induced" field that opposes the applied field. So long as any field exists, the electrons continue to move. Thus, things only settle down when the external field is exactly cancelled out everywhere inside the metal by the induced field created by the charges that have collected on the surface.

Similarly, if an insulator is exposed to a static electric field, the electrons will be pulled in one direction and the nuclei in the other direction, creating polarization in the material. This charge separation acts to partially cancel the applied field, but since the charge carriers are not free to move wherever they want, this cancellation cannot go to completion.

If the field applied is not static, but rather a propagating electromagnetic wave, the electric part of the wave can be screened if the charge carriers in the material can react in the time it takes for the wave to complete one full cycle. In a metal, the wave will be fully screened from the interior, blocking it. The currents and charges created at the surface will create another wave that propagates away from the surface - this is the reflected wave, and explains why metals are such good reflectors. Since the reflection takes place at the surface, radiation does not penetrate far into the material and thus has little opportunity to be absorbed, although there always will be some absorption. If the surface of the metal is smooth on the scale of the wavelength of the radiation, the reflection is specular. Otherwise, the metal surface scatters the radiation diffusely. The electrons of a metal can respond to changing fields at frequencies up to about the visible part of the spectrum, meaning that metals are good reflectors to visible light, all infrared, terahertz radiation, microwaves, radio waves, and ELF waves.

In an insulator, the wave will be only partially screened and will be able to penetrate into the interior. It will, however, be slowed and deflected by the polarization. This leads to refraction, which allows the material to be used as a lens.. If the insulator is not homogeneous on length scales larger than the wavelength of the radiation, the radiation is diffusely scattered from the interior of the material. If the insulator is homogeneous and does not have any strong absorption at that frequency, it will be transparent.

...in Magmatter

In magmatter it is the magnetic field of electromagnetic radiation that pushes and pulls on the magnetically charged monopoles. Just as with normal matter, this can excite vibrations in magmolecules or magsolids. The frequency of vibration scales as the square root of the restoring force constant divided by the mass (the "ideal spring" familiar to beginning physics students). Since the restoring forces of magchemical bonds are 7E18 times greater than those of chemical bonds, , this gives us vibrational frequencies that are about 3E7 times greater than those of normal matter. This is several tens of keV up to a few MeV, similar to the decay energies of normal matter nuclei. Because magtronic transitions are about 2E10 times more energetic than electronic transitions, we find that these occur with gamma rays in the tens to hundreds of TeV energy range, well above the energies that can be produced by typical particle accelerators.

Magmatter screens the magnetic fields of electromagnetic radiation in the same way that normal matter screens the electric field. If the magmatter has magnetic charges that are free to move (that is, if it is a magnetic conductor), it will be highly reflective well above the typical energies for magtronic transitions. As a result, it will reflect essentially all frequencies of light that might be encountered, even the most energetic. Magconductors may therefore be used in reaction drives as a perfect reflector for all wavelengths of emitted light, though there is a severe weight penalty. This presents some severe engineering challenges.

Insulator magmatter is mostly transparent but refractive for any wavelength of light from nuclear gamma ray energies down through x-rays, ultraviolet, visible, infrared, terahertz, microwave, radio, and ELF frequencies.

Neutron Stars and Magmatter

Even though magmatter is extraordinarily strong compared to normal matter, it has not been found to be particularly suitable for use on the surface of neutron stars. Magmatter passes through neutronium, unless sophisticated anchoring to matter is used. The surface gravity of a neutron star is about 1E12 gees: magmatter has a strength to mass ratio about 2E6 times greater than that of normal matter, which results in a free breaking length of only 20cm - 20m on a neutron star.

The exotic xenosophonts known as Hildemar's Knots are life-like phenomena sustained within the material of certain neutron stars, but have no concept of technology and little interest in the rest of the universe. Attempts to adapt magmatter technology for interaction and trade with the Knots have not so far been successful.

Maglife

Using 'organic magchemistry' and ultra-high temperatures, it is possible to develop ultrasmall living creatures, known as maglife; these organisms emit dangerous radiation due to the thermal gamma ray emission. Maglife metabolism occurs at a very fast rate and maglife organisms are extremely small and dense. One example of an advanced maglife civilisation is the Magvivisystem Hyperpolity in the TRHN.

Uses of Magmatter

Controlled manufacture and mass production of magmatter is a delicate and complicated process requiring the advanced control and logistics abilities of Third Singularity level minds. Early S3 transapients mastered the techniques of bulk magmatter manufacture relatively quickly and employed it in numerous applications such as tidal and acceleration compensator masses, ultra-fine, hyper-strength cables and braces for use in megastructural engineering, and near-indestructible coatings for conversion drive rocket nozzles and massive military transports and weapons platforms. Perhaps most famously, bulk magmatter forms the basis for the 'magical' technology of the space-time catapult, the first 'reactionless' propulsion system devised by Terragens.

Although most commonly associated conversion and ultra-strong materials, magmatter has actually had its greatest impact when employed within the more complex devices of Third Singularity minds, resulting in a technological revolution that many see as comparable in scope to the mastery of fire, agriculture, and nanotechnology in earlier eras.

Picoscale Devices

Normal atoms are about 100 to 200 picometers across. The simplest mechanical devices which can be constructed using normal matter are nanoscale objects (where one nanometer is 1000 picometers). Magatoms are about 5 billion times smaller than this; smaller than an atomic nucleus. It is possible to build quite complicated equipment from magmatter at the picometer scale. All operations at this scale are constrained by the Uncertainty Principle, which makes the design, construction and use of picoscale technology a highly complex field of study. One of the biggest challenges is to find a proper solution that operates at normal temperatures, that are almost perfect absolute zero to magmatter. In effect, this dictates that this technology can only be utilised by beings of high transapient level.

S3 level 'picotechnology' is largely based on the use of complex (and in sufficiently energy and mass rich environments, self-replicating) devices made partly or wholly of magmatter. Magmatter circuitry is not limited by the chemical bonding strengths that more conventional materials are subject to and can operate a million times faster than computronium made from 'normal' matter. The ability of magmatter to reflect and refract gamma rays permits the creation of submicroscopic gamma ray microscopes, telescopes, and lasers.

Magmatter technology forms the basis for a host of complex robotic devices able to operate deep below planetary surfaces or within stellar interiors. If operating within a sufficiently energetic environment, many of these devices can even self-replicate, using the high energy and mass resources available to generate monopoles and magmatter and assembling them into additional complex, self-replicating devices.

Finally, it is commonly believed that at least some of the vastly powerful 'space-time engineering' of the highest S-levels makes at least some use of monopole and magmatter technologies, although in general the archai neither confirm nor deny such allegations, and often their answers are contradictory.




Modosophont exposure to magmatter or magmatter-based technology may seem rare but is often ubiquitous (especially in the Inner Sphere), usually in the form of travel on a particularly advanced conversion drive vessel, a visit to a Banks Orbital or other structure employing magmatter bracing, or the use of the 'magic' ultra-speed routers and processors that underlie the more advanced information system and planetary data nets. The material forms an important, perhaps vital, but often overlooked component of modern civilization. It is not entirely hyperbole (the diligent efforts of the NoCoZo marketing combines notwithstanding) to call the modern era the Magmatter Age.

 
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Development Notes
Text by Luke Campbell with some additions by Adam Getchell, Todd Drashner, Stephen Inniss, Steve Bowers

Initially published on 21 May 2008.

Updated with additional calculations by Adam Getchell on 27 Aug 2013