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Researchers Demonstrate Power Generator for Space Missions

By - Source: LANL | B 13 comments

Researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the NASA Glenn Research Center, and National Security Technologies have developed a fission reactor prototype they believe could be used as power generator on future space flights.

In an experiment called Demonstration Using Flattop Fissions (DUFF), the scientists used a heat pipe to cool a small nuclear reactor and power a Stirling engine at the Nevada National Security Site’s Device Assembly Facility.

According to the LANL, DUFF "is the first demonstration of a space nuclear reactor system to produce electricity in the United States since 1965", following the invention of heat pipe technology at Los Alamos in 1963. As a result of the experiment, the researchers concluded that DUFF "confirms basic nuclear reactor physics and heat transfer for a simple, reliable space power system". In this specific setup, the technology delivered 24 watts of power. If combined with other modules, the technology could deliver a total of about 1 kilowatt, which would be substantially above the power supply in current space missions, which "generate about the same amount of electricity as one or two household light bulbs," LANL said.

Increased power supply could potentially result in faster data transmissions to Earth, or increase the number of instruments run simultaneously on a spacecraft. Perhaps most importantly, the technology seems to be efficient to develop and deploy. The project was taken from concept to completion in six months for less than a million dollars, LANL said.

 

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  • 8 Hide
    freggo , December 14, 2012 8:06 PM
    Now That would solve our car troubles. We should get at least 100,000 miles out of that thing without a recharge :) 
  • -9 Hide
    miki_x1 , December 14, 2012 8:14 PM
    ^not to mention cancer
  • 4 Hide
    abbadon_34 , December 14, 2012 8:21 PM
    And only 5 mph. Might be very efficient and last a long time, but these space engines are SLOW.
  • Display all 13 comments.
  • 8 Hide
    freggo , December 14, 2012 8:26 PM
    abbadon_34And only 5 mph. Might be very efficient and last a long time, but these space engines are SLOW.


    Not necessarily. Remember this thing runs 24/7/365!
    So it would charge a battery pack when the car is not in use.
    As for 'cancer'... Gasoline is carcinogenic too; all a question of containment.

    Still, not only would it be to expensive but also a security nightmare as terrorists would obviously be able to use the content to create a dirty bomb.

    So, back to the terrorists we go to buy their oil instead. How ironic !

  • 7 Hide
    realibrad , December 14, 2012 8:27 PM
    abbadon_34And only 5 mph. Might be very efficient and last a long time, but these space engines are SLOW.


    These engines are not for powering movement. They are for subsystems that use very little power. If they were used to move an object, slow would become relative. If a shot something into space, and this engine kept the sub systems running, then it could be said that the engine is fast. :) 
  • 4 Hide
    ithurtswhenipee , December 14, 2012 8:59 PM
    "generate about the same amount of electricity as one or two household light bulbs,"

    Silly me, All these years I have been using light bulbs to produce light when I could have been using them to generate electricity?!
  • 5 Hide
    memadmax , December 14, 2012 9:22 PM
    No, this machine is worse than current technology.

    Theres a nuclear powered generator that is called an RTG that has NO moving parts, and can last a very long time as demonstrated by Voyager1. It can also produce as much power as this machine can. And with a little bit of tinkering such as replaceable thermocouples(the part that breaks down) could last even longer. Another benefit to RTGs are they are not actively "fissioning" the nuclear fuel so they don't produce more radiation than they are already producing.
  • 4 Hide
    madjimms , December 14, 2012 9:34 PM
    Nuclear power is far superior to other "alternative" energy technologies. Its all about safety & containment, after that you get LONG lasting power.
  • 1 Hide
    hydac7 , December 14, 2012 9:50 PM
    I would love to have one of those powering my car :D 
  • 2 Hide
    alextheblue , December 15, 2012 1:00 AM
    ithurtswhenipee"generate about the same amount of electricity as one or two household light bulbs,"Silly me, All these years I have been using light bulbs to produce light when I could have been using them to generate electricity?!
    Yeah, you just put them outside in bright light and run em backwards.
  • 0 Hide
    klavis , December 16, 2012 5:44 AM
    memadmaxNo, this machine is worse than current technology.Theres a nuclear powered generator that is called an RTG that has NO moving parts, and can last a very long time as demonstrated by Voyager1. It can also produce as much power as this machine can. And with a little bit of tinkering such as replaceable thermocouples(the part that breaks down) could last even longer. Another benefit to RTGs are they are not actively "fissioning" the nuclear fuel so they don't produce more radiation than they are already producing.


    That is not necessarily true, this new tech might be more efficient, it depends on the amount of energy generated vs the mass of the engine. Such information is given about the RTG engines that have been used but have not be mentioned here. I doubt that they would be suggesting using this engine if it was less efficient.
  • 0 Hide
    Afrospinach , December 17, 2012 3:13 AM
    Striling engines require moving parts to operate, I wonder if this would actually last as long as the voyager 2 (35 years) RTGs
  • 0 Hide
    f-14 , December 17, 2012 8:48 PM
    call me when they get to 'one point twenty-one gigawatts'
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