Now antimatter atoms have been caged for long enough to study them in detail.
An experiment at CERN, the Geneva-based European Organisation for Nuclear Research, has managed to capture 309 antihydrogen atoms for 1,000 seconds, or 16 minutes, at a time.
The accomplishment is unlikely to lead to the faster-than-light travel of Star Trek however. As CERN scientists point out, even if they assembled all of the antimatter they had ever made and annihilated it, there would not be enough energy to light an electric light bulb for more than a few minutes. But being able to scrutinise antimatter could shed light on the nature of the Universe.
Antihydrogen has been produced in particle accelerators, but it was almost instantly destroyed when it encountered normal matter. The longest it had previously been stored for was two tenths of a second.
"We have the antihydrogen right where we want it," said Professor Jeffrey Hangst, of the University of Aarhus, Denmark, who led the experiment.