A traveling-wave engine to power deep space travel

Ivan Seeking
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LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Sept. 16, 2004 – A University of California scientist working at Los Alamos National Laboratory and researchers from Northrop Grumman Space Technology have developed a novel method for generating electrical power for deep-space travel using sound waves. The traveling-wave thermoacoustic electric generator has the potential to power space probes to the furthest reaches of the Universe. [continued]
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2004-09/danl-ate091604.php
 

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LURCH
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Darn, I was hoping this was something that would eliminate radioactive materials from deepspace probes! Still, sure looks like good news.
 
drag
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What's wrong about radioisotopes on deep space probes ?!
It's not like they're in a clean room up there. :wink:
 
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I agree, what's the big deal with radioactive materials in space??? This traveling wave generator is a novel idea, don't discard it just because it has the taboo "radio-" prefix in it's description. What's wrong with using radioactive power sources, like the SAFE fission reactor or any of the nuclear reactors designed and build by the soviets? Also, NASA's http://spacescience.nasa.gov/missions/prometheus.htm [Broken] is looking at radioisotope power generation systems. It really agrivates me that educated people are still deathly afraid of nuclear energy, simply because it carries a taboo.

Let's face the fact that deep space missions are going to require a large amount of energy. The only reliable systems with a large enough power to mass ratio are going to be radioactive. I say bravo to these researchers for pushing ahead with radioactive power generation.
 
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LURCH
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drag said:
What's wrong about radioisotopes on deep space probes ?!
It's not like they're in a clean room up there. :wink:
Launching them causes public outcry. Most people have no objection to radioisotopes in space, but having them sitting on a launchpad atop several tons of high explosives, or ripping through the atmosphere several miles high at mach 15 makes some folks underneath nervous. The problem is simply this; if we keep launching radioactive materials in rockets, then sooner or later there will be an accidental release. It's a certainty.

This tech looks promissing and I'm all for it, but the title got my hopes up that we had found a way to get rid of the radiation in launch vehicles, a goal toward which we must continue to strive. With a bit of luck, we might get a new method working before an accident happens, but the odds get worse the longer we continue this risky practice.
 
drag
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Well, I don't mean to sound harsh or not PC, but space is a very
tough environment and space missions face many challenges.
If we want to see some results I think we should push it with full force
and not question or hesitate because of every possible risk.

That said, I'm all for maximum precautions aspecialy in dealing with
radioactive materials, like lauchnes from very isolated locations and so on.

Live long and prosper.
 
Ivan Seeking
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I think Lurch has an excellent point. There will be an accident.

If I wasn't such a lover of science and space exploration I might be more concerned about real risk than potential discovery.
 
drag
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That's more of a meaning/value/purpose of life type of discussion
that we should probably reserve for the Philosophy forum... :wink: :biggrin:
(If only I had time for those long and fascinating discussions again... :frown: )
 

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