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A BIG what IF

  1. Dec 9, 2003 #1
    Ok, I am not in any physics courses, programs, associations, nothing.
    I have never taken a physics course
    But I was just wondering a few things.

    1) If you take two pieces of radioactive material, one of which is more radioactive than the other and put them beside each other, would anything happen. Specifically, would particles from one move towards the other?

    2) An electromagnetic field. How would it interact in the presence of radioactive particles. IE, would it move, shift, or become altered in any way. And could you measure how much it moved?

    3)When a magnet moves about a coil of wire, electricity is generated down the wire, yes? And the effect is produced by the electromagnetic fields affecting the electrons in the wire, or in the field itself?

    OK, so if by moving an E-Field around wires, you make electricity, and If(IF!) radiation could move an E-Field enough, could you not place radioactive materials between an E-Field, causing it to move, and making Electricity? And if one were to say that on a large scale this would be too inefficient, could it be done at a smaller scale, with arrays of these devices working together (lets forget timing for now.)

    If anyone would like to comment, please do. BTW, I am the poster child for laymen-ness in the world of physics. Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 9, 2003 #2
    Generally speaking, radioactivity is a process of nuclear decay. That is, the nucleus of the atoms are unstable and seek a more stable arangement of the nucleus. To do this, a radioactive atom emits particles and photons of energy from the nucleus until it becomes "stable"
    The type of particles and photons emitted, their energy, the rate of emission and the length of time needed for "stability" varies from one type of radioactive atom to another, but is well established.
    Radioactivity is a TRUE energy source, as the material literally emitts energy and mass which can be convertefd to useful work, and the material during this process undergoes changes that eventually stops the process; meaning that physics laws are not violated and a perpetual motion machine is impossible.
    A magnetic material is not "emmisive" in the sense of particles or photonic energy, and does not "decay" on a nuclear level. Because of this, a magnetic material can never be considered an energy source in itself, but must be manipulated(requiring energy) to produce energy(always LESS is produced than required for manipulation, resulting in loss)
    Can radiation move an E-field? Yes, but more correctly, it reacts with it. What I mean is that, generally, an E-field moves(or deflects) a charged particle much more so than a charged particle moves an E-field because an E-field is generally much stronger(even in a magnet) than a single or series of charged particles coming from a radioactive source.
    Could a specific arangement of a device based on your theory work? Probably so. However, the useful output would be extremely small compared with conventional methods to extract work from radioactive decay.
    Keep thinking, though; the only bad idea is no idea, and who knows what could be "tweaked" with yor theory.
  4. Dec 11, 2003 #3
    Cool. So radiation can affect an E-Field

    I was thinking that two pieces(?) of radiotctive material could be placed side by side. Then you run an e-field between the two pieces.

    like this

    (e's should be in the middle. Dang text formatting...)

    the e-field extends beyond the r-material. As the field fluxes left and right(relative to where you want to look) it would come near a wire, or wires, or coil of wires. Anyhoo, The e-field goes Left, makes a +ive charge, Right, a -ive charge. And so on.

    And yes, I did think that the total output would be minimal. But(!) if you were to have an array, maybe even at a very small scale, the T-Out would be the sum of all the parts(cliche? perhaps.) Even if this couldn't be used to power a car or a Rockem-Sockem Robot, it could apply to aux. power sources for satellites. Hey! I was thinking that some sort of catalyst could be used that is not inherently radioactive, but could be given its reaction to another material. Hmmmmm....Tangent!
  5. Dec 11, 2003 #4


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    radioisotope thermoelectric generators

    Radioactive materials are already being used to power spacecraft, especially far from the Sun where solar power becomes increasingly inefficient. Probes such as Galileo, Pioneer 10, and Voyager 2 drew most of their power from radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs).

    The radioactive materials generate heat, which is used to produce electricity via thermocouples.

    Quite a lot of research was done before RTGs were designed and chosen for space probes; IIRC, ideas similar to the one you posted were looked at, but there seemed to be no way to make such a generator that could make electricity more efficiently than an RTG ('efficiently' here means electrical power per kilogram of generator; weight (actually mass) is the most precious commodity for a spacecraft).

    Here's a link which explains RTGs in more detail:
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