Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The New Atomic Batteries

You would have to be almost pre-atomic to remember the optimism of the "The Atomic Age" and its ultimate failure. Well shades of Flash Gordon, Copper Head, and Jet Jackson here it actually comes. OK , it is 60 years off schedule and we have really f@&^%(d up the world with fossil fuel in the interim. But danged if aint' it here.

Uranium Nitride

WASHINGTON: Scientists have discovered a new form of uranium that could lead to a nuclear power plant small enough to fit in your car and eventually even power it. Scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory have created a long-sought molecule known as uranium nitride. Besides offering cheaper and safer nuclear fuel, the new molecule could extract more energy from fossil fuels, making cars more fuel-efficient, and could also lead to cheaper drugs. "Actinide nitrides are candidate nuclear fuels of the future," Discovery News quoted Jaqueline Kiplinger, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory who led the team of researchers on the recent Nature Chemistry paper, as saying. "But they can also break carbon-hydrogen bonds, which are very strong." Uranium nitride rips the hydrogen atoms off a carbon atom -- no easy task. A similar process happens every day in car engines. Unfortunately a lot of energy in those bonds is lost as heat. If the two atoms could be split apart without losing all that energy, gasoline could be used much more effectively not only to fuel a car, but also to improve a whole variety of petroleum-related products, from plastics to drugs. Unfortunately the new molecule is destroyed when it rips hydrogen atoms off a carbon atom. For uranium nitride to become commercially viable, it would have to knock one hydrogen atom after another and not destroy itself in the process.

But wait there is more: September 29, 2010

"The Hyperion power generation uranium nitride reactor is probably the smallest of the small reactors now heading toward licensure in the U.S. At 70 MWthermal / 25 MWelectric the HPM is really in the class of “mini”-reactors. Each reactor unit is 1.5 meters in diameter and 2.5 meters tall – about the size of two residential hot tubs stacked together. We wanted it to be small enough to fit on one truck, which is important because the unit is sealed at the assembly plant. It’s completely assembled off-site and buried in the ground in a specially designed vault. After that, it’s not to be opened or refueled. The whole assembly, including the electricity-generating component, sits on less than an acre. The entire plant can be constructed in just a few months. At the end of its useful life, which is around 10 years, we take the entire sealed reactor back to the factory where it can be refueled. We’ve got one of the few business plans that doesn’t involve leaving spent fuel on the customer’s site.

We are projecting that each HPM (the reactor unit) will run about $50 to $75 million, plus another $25 to $50 million for the balance of the steam to electricity generating plant. The containment structure is included in those costs."

"The Hyperion concept was originally conceived as a clean, affordable solution to power mining and industrial operations such as the retorting of oil sands and shale. Other applications and requests for modules now come in daily from around the globe.
Hyperion power modules (HPMs) are a perfect alternative for those communities -- such as military bases, hospital and college campuses, – that, for security, reliability, or financial reasons, desire to be independent of their local utility’s power source. Equally important is Hyperion’s ability to bring heat for industrial uses and electricity for infrastructure and homes to remote locations with no reasonable access to reliable energy. For example: over 25% of the world’s population does not have access to clean water. Hyperion can solve this appalling situation by providing the power to pump, clean, and process life’s essential element, thereby turning the tide on disease, poverty and social unrest. The team of business professionals and scientists that are developing Hyperion are deeply concerned about the state of the environment, the human suffering that continues needlessly, and the search for energy independence that is vital not just to the U.S., but to every nation on the planet. The men and women behind HPG are dedicated to realizing the full potential of this small but mighty power module. Clean, safe, affordable energy should be available to everyone – even in the most remote locations."

Now this is, soon, licenced to go.

Next: Let's get that single carbon molecule filament perfected to hold the space elevator in place and we are really living in a science fiction world.


Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

I'd read the story about the uranium nitride, but not about the mini-reactors. Very cool. The space elevator thing I am less sanguine about. I wouldn't ride in it if I was paid. Imagine being seventy or so miles above the earth, and there's a catastrophic failure.

drlobojo said...

At 70 miles you would be a lot safer than flying at seven miles like we do today.