Cosmic ray induced nuclear fusion

  • #1
CosmicKitten
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Has anybody thought of it before?
I mean even if it were energetically expensive to harness it it might actually create more than it takes since the energy source is raining down from the heavens anyway.
Such a power plant would have to be placed at a high altitude though because most cosmic rays hit the atmosphere and are no longer in proton form before they reach near the surface.
Perhaps even looking into using secondary cosmic rays (often muons) to facilitate muon-catalyzed fusion might be useful?
I wonder... is it possible that the energy surplus from the original cold fusion experiment was due to a stray cosmic ray that hit the protons in the palladium hydride?
And perhaps the crystal structure of the hydrogen made for a short-lived fusion chain reaction?
What if the palladium hydride were supercooled? How would a hot proton bashing into it work then?
Sorry for my ignorance... I want to learn here, see. It's so frustrating having so many ideas and not enough knowledge to know how to put them in action...
 

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  • #2
bcrowell
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Such a power plant would have to be placed at a high altitude though because most cosmic rays hit the atmosphere and are no longer in proton form before they reach near the surface.
The flux of energy from visible light is a gazillion times higher than the flux from cosmic rays. If it wasn't, then astronauts would be killed in a fraction of a second by cosmic rays.

I wonder... is it possible that the energy surplus from the original cold fusion experiment was due to a stray cosmic ray that hit the protons in the palladium hydride?
No, it's not possible, because there was no such energy surplus; it's been amply documented that Pons and Fleischman were simply wrong.
 
  • #3
CosmicKitten
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Regardless of flux, it is cosmic ray protons, not visible light, that have the energy to make contact with another proton and thus initiate fusion. The problem is getting enough of them to hit at once...
 
  • #4
bcrowell
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Regardless of flux, it is cosmic ray protons, not visible light, that have the energy to make contact with another proton and thus initiate fusion. The problem is getting enough of them to hit at once...

Fusion isn't a chain reaction like fission. Initiating it doesn't do you any good unless you can maintain the temperature and pressure needed to sustain fusion.
 
  • #5
Drakkith
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Regardless of flux, it is cosmic ray protons, not visible light, that have the energy to make contact with another proton and thus initiate fusion. The problem is getting enough of them to hit at once...

If you know a way of harnessing every high energy proton hitting the Earth at the same time, feel free to say so. I see nothing short of a complete spherical covering over the Earth that could do this.
 
  • #6
CosmicKitten
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A satellite might work well, to get closer to the sun where the flux is greater... but well if energy input weren't an issue, one could probably substitute heavier elements to fuse and still get an energy surplus. Which ones might produce byproducts with enough energy to instigate a chain reaction?
Also, would nuclear interactions be different in anyway if one of the materials was supercooled? Would that affect the byproducts, etc.?
 
  • #7
Drakkith
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A couple of issues:

1. A satellite away from Earth does us no good even if it could produce a net surplus of power.
2. Fusion doesn't produce a chain reaction. At all. A typical nucleus in a reactor must collide hundreds if not thousands of times before it actually fuses, and this is with the best of fuels.
3. Cooling one material would make no difference. It has no affect on the byproducts, as those are solely a result of the fuel type chosen.
4. Heavier fuels are much harder to get to fuse and release less energy.
 
  • #8
CosmicKitten
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But fission products only have to collide once right? As long as, say, if each nucleus that splits produces two high enough energy products to fuse, that at least half of them hit another nucleus to make it split (if more than half it would be supercritical right?)
Cosmic rays must be hot enough to hit other elements, judging by the effects of spallation. All elements up to iron release more energy than they absorb when they are created, right? Hydrogen makes the most energy of course, but the energy required to contain it is greater than the energy it produces, so if a heavier element were easier to contain it might be worth the reduction in energy produced.
I would like to know more about supercooled materials... superfluid helium, for example, has no friction, but it can absorb energy via other methods? If one were to bombard superfluid helium with high energy particles, would they just pass through unless they were the right energy level or do supercooling effects vanish at the nuclear level?
So, say, were a helium molecule to be hit in the nucleus and suddenly become hot and release heat, that wouldn't affect the other superfluid molecules would it unless it hit them in the nucleus?
And well if a satellite collected energy it could bring it back if it converted it to a battery, but in order to be worthwhile that battery had better have enough energy to power the world for a decade or so and I don't know of any way to store energy in such a quantity...
 
  • #9
Drakkith
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But fission products only have to collide once right? As long as, say, if each nucleus that splits produces two high enough energy products to fuse, that at least half of them hit another nucleus to make it split (if more than half it would be supercritical right?)

That's semi-correct. A sustainable chain reaction requires that NEUTRONS be ejected from each decay. Neutrons are not electrically charged, so they don't get repelled by nuclei. This allows them to get very close and bind via the strong force. Having an extra neutron plus the extra energy from it's velocity is too much for the nucleus to handle and it ends up splitting and shooting more neutrons out that do the same thing.

The other products of the decay do nothing to help the reaction. They simply carry energy away as kinetic energy, which ultimately ends up as heat, which is used to generate electricity in reactors.

Cosmic rays must be hot enough to hit other elements, judging by the effects of spallation. All elements up to iron release more energy than they absorb when they are created, right? Hydrogen makes the most energy of course, but the energy required to contain it is greater than the energy it produces, so if a heavier element were easier to contain it might be worth the reduction in energy produced.

Heavy elements are not easier to contain. At least not much easier, if at all. However the real issue is that it is REALLY REALLY hard to get heavier elements to fuse. A proposed fuel of hydrogen-boron for aneutronic fusion (fusion without large amounts of neutrons being produced) is over 10 times harder than tritum-deuterium fusion, and releases less energy.

I would like to know more about supercooled materials... superfluid helium, for example, has no friction, but it can absorb energy via other methods? If one were to bombard superfluid helium with high energy particles, would they just pass through unless they were the right energy level or do supercooling effects vanish at the nuclear level?
So, say, were a helium molecule to be hit in the nucleus and suddenly become hot and release heat, that wouldn't affect the other superfluid molecules would it unless it hit them in the nucleus?

First, single particles cannot have heat. Heat is a statistical measure of the average kinetic energy of a collection of particles. Generally trillions upon trillions in even a drop of water. Molecules might be able to be considered to have heat, as they can be made up of many atoms, but we usually use heat to describe large amounts of particles.

Now, my knowledge on superfluids is not great, so I cannot say with certainty what would happen, I believe that the fluid would very quickly heat up as it absorbed high energy particles and become a normal fluid. Whether fusion can happen at that temperature I am unsure, as the atoms are all connected with each other since they act like bosons and all fall into the same energy state. Interacting with one would mean interacting with them all, so I don't know.

And well if a satellite collected energy it could bring it back if it converted it to a battery, but in order to be worthwhile that battery had better have enough energy to power the world for a decade or so and I don't know of any way to store energy in such a quantity...

Yep. And with current technology, or even near-future technology, such a battery would...heck, I don't think we have a word to describe how big it would be. Enormous, gigantic, astronomical in size, etc. It is completely unfeasible.

The real kicker in all this is that cosmic ray induced nuclear fusion is simply not going to happen in any appreciable amount to be worth it. If you are going to fly a satellite close to the Sun you might as well throw some solar panels on it instead, it would be simpler, easier, and we know it works. You will have more cosmic rays impacting the rest of the satellite and causing damage than actually doing you any good.

Also, is the Sun the source of high energy cosmic rays? I didn't think so, but I really don't know.
 
  • #10
CosmicKitten
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Even the relatively weak cosmic rays have enough energy to fuse, if I am correct. But the sun isn't the source of the highest energy cosmic rays, that would be the outer reaches of the universe.
If superfluid helium worked that way, that would be fantastic! ...that is, provided one could handle all that energy without it blowing up...
What do you know about quantum entanglement? That might be a way to transfer energy over long distances and even maybe bypass the potential barrier?
 
  • #11
Drakkith
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Even the relatively weak cosmic rays have enough energy to fuse, if I am correct. But the sun isn't the source of the highest energy cosmic rays, that would be the outer reaches of the universe.

Perhaps you could provide details if you've already looked into it?

If superfluid helium worked that way, that would be fantastic! ...that is, provided one could handle all that energy without it blowing up...

What do you mean? If it worked which way? Why would it blow up?

What do you know about quantum entanglement? That might be a way to transfer energy over long distances and even maybe bypass the potential barrier?

Not a chance. Entanglement doesn't work that way at all.
 
  • #12
CosmicKitten
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They still aren't sure how the "oh my God" particles (the ultra high energy cosmic rays) came into being. There are theories of supernovae, the entire universe/galaxy working like a giant particle accelerator, etc.

So if all of the superfluid helium atoms behaved as one unit, that means if one of them gets hit with enough energy to release energy, they all would? Or would it have to be a particle with enough energy to fuse all of them individually? Now suppose they were all to fuse at once, how would that energy be contained?

And how exactly does entanglement work?

I know also of the tunneling effect, say you know the "forbidden zone" that a particle cannot exist in but there is an equation that shows that its probability distribution lies partially on the other side of the barrier. So even if two particles don't have enough energy to fuse they can SOMETIMES (very rarely I'll bet) tunnel through the potential barrier and meet each other to fuse right?
 
  • #13
Drakkith
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So if all of the superfluid helium atoms behaved as one unit, that means if one of them gets hit with enough energy to release energy, they all would? Or would it have to be a particle with enough energy to fuse all of them individually? Now suppose they were all to fuse at once, how would that energy be contained?

None of that would happen. In a superfluid the atoms all sit in the same state. If you spin liquid helium around and cool it until it goes into the superfluid phase it continues spinning forever! (The actual experiment was stopped after an hour or so, and no reduction in the motion was observed) It does this because you would need to apply enough energy to disrupt the entire fluid, not just one atom. Since friction doesn't provide enough energy each time an atom would be disrupted, the fluid experiences no friction.

This does NOT mean that they can fuse all at once, nor that they could all release energy if one gets struck. This is physically impossible, as you need each atom to fuse with something! And we can't "suppose that they all fuse at once". Again, this is not going to happen. I don't think I can explain it very well, so it may be confusing.

And how exactly does entanglement work?

That topic is best discussed in the Quantum Physics forum. There are plenty of threads already if you do a search for them using the search function. You can also find lots of info online.

However, I will say that no information and no energy can be transferred. There is no transfer of anything. It's just measuring the state that particles are in.

I know also of the tunneling effect, say you know the "forbidden zone" that a particle cannot exist in but there is an equation that shows that its probability distribution lies partially on the other side of the barrier. So even if two particles don't have enough energy to fuse they can SOMETIMES (very rarely I'll bet) tunnel through the potential barrier and meet each other to fuse right?

Of course. The uncertainty principle tells us this. The higher the energy, the more probable it is that tunneling will happen. This is also why nuclear decay happens in heavy nuclei like uranium.
 
  • #14
CosmicKitten
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Friction is the large-scale interpretation of the small-scale phenomenon of electron shells brushing by other electron shells and transferring energy in chaotic ways, correct? In superfluid helium it appears that that doesn't happen to the helium shells, and there is no reason for it to since helium shells are full and neither wanting to give nor receive other electrons, tug/push at them, etc. which raises the question why hotter helium has friction... also isn't the temperature at which helium-3 becomes a superfluid different than when helium-4 becomes a superfluid? Which means the phenomenon has some relation to mass or the nucleus...
Suppose the superfluid helium were spinning at a very high angular velocity (the values it can assume are quantized right?) wait... how can they get it to spin, wouldn't it just slide against the walls of the container? Anyway, if it spins fast enough the particles would have the same average kinetic energy as a very very VERY hot sample of helium in the sun, so by the definition of temperature it would be VERY high temperature. Except it does not exhibit the entropic disorder characteristic of the hot helium in the sun...

But suppose you were to spin two canisters of helium in opposite directions, connect them with a shut valve, and open the valve just as the helium reached a high enough angular velocity...

As for entanglement, well, it allows you to know what state the particles are in without directly interfering with the right? Because if you could create a computerized machine that measures the states of the entangled particles and fire a laser when all or most of them are measured to be in a certain state, supposing some kind of inertial confinement system where it is optimal for all or most of the particles to be in a certain state at the time the laser is fired?
 
  • #15
Drakkith
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Friction is the large-scale interpretation of the small-scale phenomenon of electron shells brushing by other electron shells and transferring energy in chaotic ways, correct? In superfluid helium it appears that that doesn't happen to the helium shells, and there is no reason for it to since helium shells are full and neither wanting to give nor receive other electrons, tug/push at them, etc. which raises the question why hotter helium has friction... also isn't the temperature at which helium-3 becomes a superfluid different than when helium-4 becomes a superfluid? Which means the phenomenon has some relation to mass or the nucleus...

The full shells have little to do with it. As bosons, helium atoms in a superfluid state "share" everything. I don't think I can describe it well. If you want to stop the motion of one you have to provide enough energy to modify the motion of the entire fluid. (Or a large portion of it. I'm not 100% sure) For helium-3 this is different, it is more of a result of the BCS theory.

Suppose the superfluid helium were spinning at a very high angular velocity (the values it can assume are quantized right?) wait... how can they get it to spin, wouldn't it just slide against the walls of the container? Anyway, if it spins fast enough the particles would have the same average kinetic energy as a very very VERY hot sample of helium in the sun, so by the definition of temperature it would be VERY high temperature. Except it does not exhibit the entropic disorder characteristic of the hot helium in the sun...

I think they spin it while they are cooling it down. Also, temperature doesn't work like that. You have to look at the average motion of the particles with respect to themselves. If you just rotate them around the same way we could just shift our frame to the rotating one and there would be no motion.

As for entanglement, well, it allows you to know what state the particles are in without directly interfering with the right? Because if you could create a computerized machine that measures the states of the entangled particles and fire a laser when all or most of them are measured to be in a certain state, supposing some kind of inertial confinement system where it is optimal for all or most of the particles to be in a certain state at the time the laser is fired?

I don't understand anything you said here.

Unfortunately we have gotten fairly far off topic, so I think it's best that you take your questions to the appropriate subforums.
 
  • #16
CosmicKitten
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BAAAACK on topic...

Ah, I get it! You only know about magnetic confinement fusion, you don't understand inertial confinement fusion at all... in that case a chain reaction does occur. It involves firing a laser at a small pellet of fuel in order to cause it to implode and release energy. Now if cosmic rays could be focused onto such a target, it would eliminate the requirement for a laser and all the energy it costs... that might be accomplished to some degree by building an enormous magnetic funnel at a high altitude that would bend the cosmic rays inwards to create a fine, pressure-packed particle stream. That would not eliminate the other problems associated with inertial confinement fusion however, such as efficiently collecting the energy and all of the neutrons produced...
 
  • #17
Drakkith
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BAAAACK on topic...

Ah, I get it! You only know about magnetic confinement fusion, you don't understand inertial confinement fusion at all... in that case a chain reaction does occur. It involves firing a laser at a small pellet of fuel in order to cause it to implode and release energy. Now if cosmic rays could be focused onto such a target, it would eliminate the requirement for a laser and all the energy it costs... that might be accomplished to some degree by building an enormous magnetic funnel at a high altitude that would bend the cosmic rays inwards to create a fine, pressure-packed particle stream. That would not eliminate the other problems associated with inertial confinement fusion however, such as efficiently collecting the energy and all of the neutrons produced...

No I understand inertial confinement, I just didn't get what you said at the time. Now it makes sense. All I can say is that learning more about entanglement and quantum mechanics would tell you that your earlier idea isn't possible. Study up!

As for bending cosmic rays, your machine would be unfeasibly large, if its even possible. By the way, this thread probably borders on overly speculative, as inventing machines isn't what PF is for.
 
  • #18
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A rough estimate based on this diagram and WolframAlpha gives O(1µW/m^2) of cosmic rays. Give or take one order of magnitude - light from the sun hits Earth with 1kW/m^2 and is way easier to focus.

As comparison: NIF uses 500 terawatts, this corresponds to the solar radiation in 500,000km^2 - about the area of france or 5% of the US. With cosmic rays, you would need 1 million times this area, or a disk with a radius similar to the moon orbit.
 
  • #19
CosmicKitten
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So that's... a gigaelectronvolt per square meter per second? Assuming that energy isn't spread too thin among too many particles, it is more than enough to break the potential barrier (about .1Mev for deuterium-tritium, what would it be for proton-proton?) Supposing the flux of a square meter were to pass through a magnetic funnel to bend them to change the flux to a Gev per square centimeter per second... what height and magnetic strength would accomplish this? I'm imagining very tall with lots and lots of neodymium magnets should we stick to permanent magnets... also some figures on the expected nuclear cross section would be helpful...
 
  • #20
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Proton-proton has a bad cross-section.
Cosmic particles come from everywhere, you cannot focus them further with magnets. You can throw away 99% of the particles and focus the remaining 1% to a small spot, but then you cannot add more particles from elsewhere to the focus. Well... at least in space. On earth, you might gain a factor of 2 as you naturally do not get particles from below. Still not enough to be interesting.
 
  • #21
CosmicKitten
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Is there a kind of magnet setup that would cause all particles going through it in every direction from every direction to bend toward the same direction? And suppose it was proton-deuterium or even tritium... perhaps densely packed as part of a metal alloy, such as with lithium...
 
  • #22
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Is there a kind of magnet setup that would cause all particles going through it in every direction from every direction to bend toward the same direction? And suppose it was proton-deuterium or even tritium... perhaps densely packed as part of a metal alloy, such as with lithium...

No, there is no such setup. Do you realize that magnets don't attract of repel charged particles like electrostatics do? IE the north pole of a magnet does NOT attract negatively charged particles.
 
  • #23
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Is there a kind of magnet setup that would cause all particles going through it in every direction from every direction to bend toward the same direction?
You cannot reduce the phase-space of those particles, unless you catch them in some way or interact in other special ways with them.
No.. using cosmic rays for science is fine, you can even map unknown buildings by looking at the absorbed (or passing) muons. But if you want to fuse/heat/whatever macroscopic amounts of some stuff, the rate is just too low.
 
  • #24
CosmicKitten
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I KNOW how magnets work, I knew back in high school before I even took a physics class, I understood it so well in fact that I spazzed out over getting D's on the tests in the E/M class at the community college I got kicked out of (mind you a D on the tests is average for that class, it just means you'll get a B in the class if you do all the homework and labs and attend class every day) the magnetic field bends the particles around in a circular shape, the radius being larger the more massive, less charged and faster the particle is. So a very strong magnetic field, in effect over a long distance of the particle's path would be required to bend the particles enough in on each other... and it would have to be magnets with the same poles pointing toward each other in a ring, so the particles curve inward toward the center of the magnets rather than just away.

What about phase space, what does that have to do with anything? I mean a setup somewhat analogous to a parabolic mirror, for which all of the light that reflects off of it, regardless of initial direction, provided it is sourced at the right point, heads directly outward, all of the rays parallel to each other. Or in this case a system of magnets arranged so that all of the entering particles more or less wind up in the same place... you know the muons I don't imagine are very good for fusion unless you're looking at muon-catalyzed fusion and even that I dunno... I want to know the flux of protons that make it down here.
As a matter of fact, I just now recall that, after I came up with this idea in high school or so, I found that Nikola Tesla had in fact dabbled with harnessing energy from cosmic rays... it had more to do with ionized particles, though, and I'm not sure if it actually works...
 
  • #25
Drakkith
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I can't give you a number for the flux, but I can tell you that it is exceedingly low. You just aren't going to be able to gather enough to do anything with them without having an absolutely massive device.
 
  • #26
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What about phase space, what does that have to do with anything?
It is the most compact explanation why you cannot build any setup to concentrate particles coming uniformly from all directions. It would violate the second law of thermodynamics.

I mean a setup somewhat analogous to a parabolic mirror, for which all of the light that reflects off of it, regardless of initial direction, provided it is sourced at the right point, heads directly outward, all of the rays parallel to each other.
The issue here is "parallel to each other". Incoming cosmic rays are not parallel, the particles travel in all directions. You cannot focus that with a parabolic mirror. You can indeed concentrate "all" particles coming from a very small angle to a very small area - but then "no" particle from other directions will hit your target ("all" and "no" are the limit of an infinite and perfect mirror).

Or in this case a system of magnets arranged so that all of the entering particles more or less wind up in the same place...
Similar to light, this cannot work.
 
  • #27
CosmicKitten
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Take all the particles coming in from all directions at one point. Assume that after they travel past that point they are all being bent into a circular path by a uniform magnetic field. Assume all of the particles have the same energy. Illustrating all of the paths will show a bunch of arcs of congruent circles, all curving either clockwise or counterclockwise, and there is no altitude at which they will all be traveling in the same direction (that is, the tangent lines to the arcs of their paths, drawn at any given altitude, will NOT be equal).

But suppose the magnetic field were not uniform, but varied so that the radii of the arcs varied and there would be an altitude at which the tangent lines to all of the arcs were parallel -- in other words, where all the particles originating from the given point are traveling in the same direction.

How would one set up a differential equation to figure out such a scenario? Also, would it work for all of the points in a given area? I figure it wouldn't work for particles of different energies because the altitude at which the directions are the same, given a certain magnetic field gradient, is energy dependent. Also those particles that hit the point at such flat angles in one direction will be curved upward and thus lost from the system.

Since the particles all travel in different directions, the cosmic ray flux over the Earth can be regarded as a very rarified plasma, correct? What would the temperature of that plasma be, and how would one compress it? Not without losing a good deal of synchrotron radiation I'm sure...
 
  • #28
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Assume all of the particles have the same energy.
They have not. But fine, let's assume this.
How would one set up a differential equation to figure out such a scenario?
Probably similar to the design of an electron microscope.
Also, would it work for all of the points in a given area?
No, just for the point your setup is based on.
I figure it wouldn't work for particles of different energies
Right
Since the particles all travel in different directions, the cosmic ray flux over the Earth can be regarded as a very rarified plasma, correct? What would the temperature of that plasma be, and how would one compress it?
With a really point-like entry point and with exactly the same energy for all particles, I think you can get as close to 0 as your engineering allows to. With the real energy distribution, the unordered energy is of the order of GeV, which would correspond to temperatures of terakelvin (TK? never seen that).

Not without losing a good deal of synchrotron radiation I'm sure...
Synchrotron radiation is one of the few mechanisms to compress the particles in phase space, but protons are too heavy to exploit this. In the LHC, protons lose ~3keV per turn (design value), with 7 TeV energy and a magnetic field of about 8 tesla over 27 km. Completely unrealistic for any atmospheric field, where you do not know the position in the micrometer-range and the direction in the millirad-range.
 
  • #29
CosmicKitten
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So if one could compress a good deal of the particles together it would be one hell of a hot plasma, am I correct?

How would an electric field work to compress the particles? Or perhaps an electric field combined with a magnetic field which is how mass spectrometers work? I imagine it would take too much energy to make it worthwhile to hold an electric field as opposed to a permanent magnet... unless perhaps something that ionizes when the cosmic rays hit it, making it positively charged and thus deflect other particles inward?

What is the potential for harnessing power from cosmic ray-ionized atmospheric molecules anyway? Suppose a magnet bended them inwards and funneled it into a generator to create energy via induction? That was sort of the idea I had in 11th grade, but I didn't have any kind of resources outside of school to explore such an idea...
 
  • #30
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So if one could compress a good deal of the particles together it would be one hell of a hot plasma, am I correct?
You cannot compress it, so the question is meaningless.

What is the potential for harnessing power from cosmic ray-ionized atmospheric molecules anyway? Suppose a magnet bended them inwards and funneled it into a generator to create energy via induction? That was sort of the idea I had in 11th grade, but I didn't have any kind of resources outside of school to explore such an idea...
O(µW/m^2), or 9 orders of magnitude below solar radiation. Not useful.
 
  • #31
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I am soooo sorry to revive this dead thread, but I have studied a bit in the past year and I have more questions...

I heard about a contest from NASA to design something that can store enough solar energy to operate a lunar rover function on the dark side of the moon during the two week(?) long lunar night. There is still a cosmic ray flux on that side of the moon, correct? If the rover had like a solar panel but instead covered with an array of coiled nanowires, if cosmic rays zipped through it would a current be induced? Or would the coil have to be moving? What if it coiled in one direction and then coiled in the other, would say a wire with current running through it induce an AC current with frequency equal to the drift velocity of the current running through it or is my understanding completely incorrect? Cosmic rays would likely experience so little resistance that they would zip through it with almost zero energy loss, but would it be possible to capture some of that energy through induction in some way? Or at the very least absorb some of the cosmic rays themselves to charge a plate, perhaps use magnets to bend electrons in one direction and protons in the other to be captured on separate plates and store voltage like a capacitor on those plates? Or would there not be enough electrons in the cosmic rays so would a plate collecting protons run a current if connected to the ground? What sort of setup would be able to capture such high energy protons in the first place? A palladium plate that would collect them to make charged palladium hydride, but that would only work for so long as the palladium is able to store extra hydrogen (plus whatever other nuclei are in the cosmic rays which might not store as well or disrupt the crystal lattice?) Could the particles be stopped and then their Bremsstrahlung radiation collected and used for energy?
 
  • #32
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Even if you find some magical way to collect all the energy of cosmic rays (you won't), 1 second in the sun is worth years in the shadow. Even starlight (the visible part) is better than cosmic rays, assuming my estimate from 2012 is correct.
 
  • #33
Vanadium 50
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Please calculate the energy you can get in joules per square meter. That will tell you an important fact.
 
  • #34
CosmicKitten
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I can't find any data for the cosmic ray energy flux on the moon or anywhere on the Earth for that matter. I know it's higher on the moon because of the lack of magnetic field and atmosphere, it would even be mostly primary cosmic rays.

What would happen if say a proton at that high of an energy hit a nucleus in a reactor full of tritium or even helium or lithium? How do you figure out the products of a nuclear reaction given the energies and isotopes of the original nuclei? Would it sustain a fusion chain reaction or would it fizzle? Are there any conceivable circumstances where an infrequent ultra high energy proton could sustain such a reaction, or at least reduce the energy input required from other sources?

What about the bremsstrahlung radiation lost in a nuclear fusion reactor, I hear it's harvested by heating the steel walls, why not cover the walls with like solar panels but with band gaps that absorb energy more efficiently in the x ray region? How well would bremsstrahlung losses have to be recovered in order for a nuclear fusion reactor to make more energy than it requires for ignition?
 
  • #35
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Would it sustain a fusion chain reaction or would it fizzle? Are there any conceivable circumstances where an infrequent ultra high energy proton could sustain such a reaction, or at least reduce the energy input required from other sources?

No. None. It just doesn't work this way.

What about the bremsstrahlung radiation lost in a nuclear fusion reactor, I hear it's harvested by heating the steel walls, why not cover the walls with like solar panels but with band gaps that absorb energy more efficiently in the x ray region?

To my knowledge solar panels cannot be made for the X-Ray range.

How well would bremsstrahlung losses have to be recovered in order for a nuclear fusion reactor to make more energy than it requires for ignition?

That depends on the losses due to the radiation vs the reaction rate, along with a whole lot more, like efficiency of the energy conversion process. However, you're missing a very very key point here. We haven't even hit breakeven yet, meaning that we can't even get a reaction to put out more energy than we have to put in. And this is just talking about total energy from the reaction before being harnessed, we still have to account for losses and inefficiencies.
 

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