Archive for the ‘nuclear energy’ category
Mar 5, 2017
Posted by Andreas Matt in categories: nuclear energy, particle physics, quantum physics
Controlled nuclear fusion has been a holy grail for physicists who seek an endless supply of clean energy. Scientists at Rice University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Chile offered a glimpse into a possible new path toward that goal.
Their report on quantum-controlled fusion puts forth the notion that rather than heating atoms to temperatures found inside the sun or smashing them in a collider, it might be possible to nudge them close enough to fuse by using shaped laser pulses: ultrashort, tuned bursts of coherent light.
Authors Peter Wolynes of Rice, Martin Gruebele of Illinois and Illinois alumnus Eduardo Berrios of Chile simulated reactions in two dimensions that, if extrapolated to three, might just produce energy efficiently from deuterium and tritium or other elements.
Feb 21, 2017
Posted by Shane Hinshaw in category: nuclear energy
Pulling uranium out of seawater could be a cost-effective way to source nuclear fuel, scientists have found, and the technique could pave the way for coastal countries to switch to nuclear power.
With the International Atomic Energy Agency currently predicting an increase of up to 68 percent in nuclear power production over the next 15 years, finding a new, more environmentally friendly source of uranium — the most critical ingredient in nuclear power — could give this alternative to fossil fuels a boost.
Feb 14, 2017
Posted by Klaus Baldauf in categories: nuclear energy, solar power, space travel, sustainability
For the past five decades—from the Apollo-era lunar science experiments to the Mars Curiosity and the New Horizons missions—Pu-238 Radioisotope Thermal Generators (RTG) have served as a power source. While some of the NASA’s forays will continue to rely on these RTGs, others will require larger power sources to enable human space and planetary exploration and establish reliable high bandwidth deep-space communications. Solar power cannot handle this goal. A larger nuclear-based power source is required.
In a recent Washington Post article, Jeff Bezos, founder of amazon.com and creator of Blue Origin space project said, “I think NASA should work on a space-rated nuclear reactor. If you had a nuclear reactor in space—especially if you want to go anywhere beyond Mars—you really need nuclear power. Solar power just gets progressively difficult as you get further way from the sun. And that’s a completely doable thing to have a safe, space-qualified nuclear reactor.”
Calls for space nuclear power are not new. In fact, numerous reactor concepts have been proposed in the past. Their development is often dampened by the perception that nuclear is too hard, takes too long and costs too much.
Feb 6, 2017
Posted by Shane Hinshaw in categories: futurism, nuclear energy
Feb 2, 2017
Posted by Shane Hinshaw in categories: nuclear energy, particle physics
Nuclear fusion is premised on building technology that would replicate the reaction that naturally powers our Sun — two light atoms, in this case, hydrogen, are fused together under extreme temperatures to produce another element, helium.
The process would release vast amounts of clean energy drawn from an almost limitless fuel source, with nearly zero carbon emissions.
However, it has yet to be done on a scale that would make it usable. Canadian scientists are hoping to change that, announcing plans to harness and develop nuclear fusion technology so they can deliver a working nuclear fusion plant prototype by 2030.
Feb 1, 2017
Posted by Dan Kummer in categories: drones, nuclear energy, robotics/AI
WASHINGTON (AP) — Holy drone, Batman! Mechanical masterminds have spawned the Bat Bot, a soaring, sweeping and diving robot that may eventually fly circles around other drones.
Because it mimics the unique and more flexible way bats fly, this 3-ounce prototype could do a better and safer job getting into disaster sites and scoping out construction zones than bulky drones with spinning rotors, said the three authors of a study released Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics. For example, it would have been ideal for going inside the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, said study co-author Seth Hutchinson, an engineering professor at the University of Illinois.
The bat robot flaps its wings for better aerial maneuvers, glides to save energy and dive bombs when needed. Eventually, the researchers hope to have it perch upside down like the real thing, but that will have to wait for the robot’s sequel.
Jan 28, 2017
Posted by Klaus Baldauf in categories: nuclear energy, robotics/AI, transportation
The idea of using robots as the go-to for handling disaster situations isn’t new, but part of the problem has been how to build robots light enough to move about easily, yet are strong enough and tough enough to handle things like a smashed up nuclear reactor. As part of the answer, the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Bridgestone Tires have partnered to develop a new hydraulic robotic muscle that is lightweight, yet is five to ten times as strong as conventional electric motors and much more durable.
The locations in disaster areas where the responders are needed most urgently are often the ones that are the hardest to get to, precisely because they’ve been hit so hard. The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster is a prime example. Despite the damage done to the nuclear power plant by the sea wave that struck it, the subsequent explosion and meltdown could have been avoided had emergency workers been able to reach it with the right equipment in time to make repairs and re-power the cooling systems.
Jan 22, 2017
Posted by Klaus Baldauf in categories: habitats, nuclear energy, transportation
The future of nuclear power might look very different than we thought, with a US-based company presenting plans for miniature, modular nuclear power plants that are so small, they can fit on the back of a truck.
NuScale Power, the company behind the power plants, says each modular device is completely self-contained, and capable of producing 50-megawatts of electricity — enough to power thousands of homes.
The power plants stand 29.7 metres tall, so aren’t really that ‘miniature’, except relative to an acutal nuclear power plant. They also haven’t been tested as yet, so we need to reserve our excitment for when we can actually see these things in action.
Dec 25, 2016
Posted by Klaus Baldauf in categories: nuclear energy, space, transportation
Being able to withstand temperatures of nearly 4000°C could pave the way for both materials to be used in ever more extreme environments, such as in heat resistant shielding for the next generation of hypersonic space vehicles.
Tantalum carbide (TaC) and hafnium carbide (HfC) are refractory ceramics, meaning they are extraordinarily resistant to heat. Their ability to withstand extremely harsh environments means that refractory ceramics could be used in thermal protection systems on high-speed vehicles and as fuel cladding in the super-heated environments of nuclear reactors. However, there hasn’t been the technology available to test the melting point of TaC and HfC in the lab to determine how truly extreme an environment they could function in.