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Most powerful machine ever constructed?

  1. Jun 15, 2008 #1
    Does anyone know what the most powerful machine ever constructed might be, say in terms of energy produced?

    I've heard it is the Saturn V rocket, but I'm willing to bet one of the existing particle accelerators could surpass that.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 15, 2008 #2
    Nuclear reactor?
  4. Jun 15, 2008 #3
    You need to define properly the "power" you are after. Particle accelerators run on electricity, and do not reach such high power consumption as you might imagine, because in the end the problem is not so much to burn as much power as possible, but to impart the energy in the particles accelerated. Most of the energy at the LHC for instance will be stored in the magnetic fields, not in the beams of particles, and is of the order of several GJ. I think you are right when saying this is more than the energy developed by Saturn V, although this is counter intuitive to me. I did some rough estimation, because the exact dynamics would require more data than I found. In any case, this must be way less than the several MT developed by some nuclear weapons, which are of the order of millions of GJ. That would be the most powerful machines ever constructed, although the energy is merely released and not controlled, which could be considered pretty useless. :frown:
  5. Jun 15, 2008 #4


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    You said energy - did you mean power? The Saturn V (stage 1) produced 141,000 MW of power - but only for about 2.5 minutes. Or 5,900 MWh. A typical nuclear reactor puts out 1,000 MW. So a Saturn V first stage put out as much energy in 2.5 minutes as a nuclear plant does in 6 hours.
  6. Jun 15, 2008 #5
    Wow, I didnt realize it was that much.
  7. Jun 15, 2008 #6
    That is indeed the whole question. When I mentionned LHC magnets, that was in terms of stored energy, and because particle accelerators were mentionned by the OP. I thought nuclear bombs were relevant, because (as far as I know) they output the largest power. But indeed, a nuclear plant running for several years can outgrow in energy pretty much anything else.

    So, a good reference in terms of huge amounts of energy would be the total kinetic energy of the Earth in rotation around the Sun. I did not check, wikipedia gives [tex]2.6\times 10^{29}[/tex] J. How many hours of a typical nuclear plant ? :biggrin: :rolleyes:
  8. Jun 16, 2008 #7
    Wow a gigaJoule!
  9. Jun 16, 2008 #8


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    If we go for power, and human-made, then I think that a thermonuclear bomb wins the contest. A megaton is 4.184 petajoules (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiloton ), your typical thermonuclear weapon is a 10-20 megaton (although the Soviets made a 100 megaton banger), so we are talking about 100 petajoules, or ~ 10^17 joule. The energy-delivering explosion itself takes about 10 microseconds (this is an educated guess of mine, given that that's about the time it takes for the shock wave to reach the thermonuclear part and hence blow it apart).

    So we are talking here of a 10^22 Watt device - which, granted, doesn't work a long time.
  10. Jun 16, 2008 #9


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    Mt. Saint Helins???

    THE SUN!!!
  11. Jun 16, 2008 #10
    Were they constructed?
  12. Jun 16, 2008 #11


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    Allegedly, and it only took a 5 days.
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