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  Topic: New Nuclear Engine Could
Power Deep-Space Exploration
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New Nuclear Engine Could
Power Deep-Space Exploration

Wired News, by Adam Mann

Original Article

Posted By:LittleHoodedMonk, 11/27/2012 6:41:35 PM

Researchers have tested a small prototype of a nuclear-reactor engine design that could one day power deep-space exploration probes. The proposed design is based on a Stirling engine – an engine first invented in the 19th century that uses hot pressurized gas to push a piston. It would use a 50-pound nuclear uranium battery to generate heat that is then carried to eight Stirling engines to produce about 500 watts of power. (Snip) Nuclear engines are important because they make possible exploration of the entire solar system. Beyond Mars, sunlight is so weak that solar panels would have to be

Comments:
When I was growing up, this type of science fiction was mesmerizing to me. Knowing that it can be done now, I wonder what happened to the research push to bring these wonders to our normal daily use. I see the imaginative future that writer´s create, but governments spike in keeping US tethered to them.

      


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Reply 1 - Posted by: woofwoofwoof, 11/27/2012 7:21:59 PM     (No. 9036675)

Seems very unlikely, Stirling engines are famously inefficient, and there are no links in the story to further detail.

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Reply 2 - Posted by: veritas, 11/27/2012 7:55:08 PM     (No. 9036702)

As is all-too-common, the language is loaded with errors. Some may be misguided attempts to explain via analogy. In the end, they´re just errors. In explaining science, accuracy isn´t an option.

The mention of "battery" is a flat error. A battery produces a current directly from a chemical reaction. This design operates

OK -- the system described is intended to produce the power needed to run on-board electronics and the transmitter[s]. The image [and language] seems to suggest this device provides propulsion power. Not so.

The article does discuss the use of this reactor in an ion-drive system.

So -- this design uses the heat of radioactive decay to heat the gas [working fluid] of the Stirling engines, which mechanically drive generators to make the electricity to power the on-board electronics.

#2: Indeed, much is left unaddressed. Perhaps the range of temperature in the hard vacuum of space makes these Stirlings more efficient? One must wonder whether the direct heat-to-electricity solid-state devices have really poor efficiency, or really poor reliability?

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Reply 3 - Posted by: thelmalou, 11/27/2012 8:14:44 PM     (No. 9036717)

Duh...dilithium crystals.


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Reply 4 - Posted by: uno, 11/27/2012 8:28:26 PM     (No. 9036730)

The efficiency can be increased by adding a cast iron fan driven by the Stirling engine to blow bypass ions around the Nuclear engine...

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Reply 5 - Posted by: ziel, 11/27/2012 8:36:26 PM     (No. 9036736)

Thorium is the future.
Proven working reactor.
We have enough fuel for 800 years using today consumption as a baseline.

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Reply 6 - Posted by: Blue-Z-Anna, 11/27/2012 9:07:19 PM     (No. 9036764)

Fairy dust and good intentions.

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