Thorium fueled engine


#1

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#2

Are you telling me that this sucker is NUCLEAR?


#3

You can power that car with human sacrifices and I’d still want it.


#4

I admire the complete avoidance of the whole “runs on radioactivity” angle. It’s the density of thorium that does the trick, see? Chutzpastic.


#5

Same stuff that David Hahn cited as the Fuel of the Future, when he was running around irradiating his mother’s potting shed (see “The Radioactive Boy Scout”).


#6

I think I need to read the linked articles, because something’s fishy here. Why would you use a laser to heat water to steam, when the fission produces all the heat you need. Going from Heat > Electricity > Coherent Light > Heat would be incredibly inefficient.


#7

Thorium is a great fuel that we will never use in cars because it’s radioactive and is regulated as such.

The comparison to gallons of gas is a bit goofy since you can save gas in a normal engine by turning it off. This car will just have to radiate away excess energy whenever you’re not driving it (your garage should stay nice and warm). I actually wonder how much power they’re deriving from this laser-steam hybrid setup. It can’t be too much or the car would overheat whenever you’re not driving it.

I guess the best solution would be to have plugs in your parking spot that your car would dump energy into when it’s not driving, sort of a reverse electric car.


#8

I don’t know for sure, but my guess was that the thorium sits in a gas chamber, and every time it decays the decay product excites the gas which eventually settles back down and emits a photon. The photons are shot into the water to heat it. I’m guessing they’re doing this setup to avoid creating heavy water in your vehicle.

I also appreciate that the concept artist for this car designed something that looks as hideously impractical as a nuclear powered car should.


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#9

Sounds like a bit of BS. From the wee bit of information provided, it sounds like they are proposing to use the decay heat from the thorium to power a laser… One would need far more thorium for that.

Perhaps they are working on a nuclear battery that more directly captures the energy of the decay particles rather than using the heat. I would think that one would still need more than a gram to generate enough energy to create steam via laser.

Found an article that explains the process:

The key to the system developed by inventor Charles Stevens, CEO and chairman of Connecticut-based Laser Power Systems, is that when silvery metal thorium is heated by an external source, becomes it is so dense its molecules give off considerable heat.

Small blocks of thorium generate heat surges that are configured as a thorium-based laser, Stevens tells Ward’s. These create steam from water within mini-turbines, generating electricity to drive a car.

Still sounds like pure BS – sounds as if they are saying that by heating Thorium one can get more energy out than is put in…
This sounds like gilded perpetual motion woo to me.


#10

I’m actually intrigued by the thorium concept as regards “burning” spent nuclear fuel. And hey — if a car can safely run on it too, all’s the better. But I pity the poor PR officer who has to tapdance around the headline everybody but Laser Power Systems would flip out over: NUCLEAR CAR.


#11

I think they’re trying to accelerate the decay process by heating the Thorium. I don’t know enough nuclear physics to know if this is total bullshit or not, but it’s not on the face of it a violation of thermodynamics.


#12

But don’t forget, it’s the thorium that makes it sexy-looking! Or something, I guess.


#13

If solar cell cars looked like that in the mid 80’s to early 90’s I think we’d seen a lot more public interest in developing them.


#14

So someone finally updated the Ford Nucleon?


#15

This little bit jumped out at me:

Thorium produces 10 to 10,000 times less long-lived radioactive waste

That’s… quite a lot of wiggle room there.


#16

Isn’t that pretty much what solar cars of the 90s looked like?

I looked at that concept car image and went “where’s the doors?” “Is that a single seat car?” “Is there any storage space?” “God, look at those tires, you’re going to be feeling every pebble in the road”

It’s like an exaggerated supercar, made of angles and curves with no concerns about ergonomics or practicality.


#17

Orders of orders of magnitude.


#18

No, one cannot accelerate the decay process – I think that by irradiating a certain nuclide with a certain particle, one can get a small change in the decay rate, but merely heating a nuclide will only result in a warm hunk of stuff.
Thorium does have some useful thermal properties – it is used in welding rods, was commonly used in lantern mantles, used in some high-temp alloys, and thorium oxide is especially used in high-temp applications.


#19

I’m always amazed by the marketing thought process that goes into making “concept cars” that look so insane. I suppose it is to make it look like THE FUTURE, but really it just makes it look like another dumb idea that will never actually get built - some grad student’s wet dream where they spent 10% of the time researching the technology, and 90% in 3DSMAX to get it to look right.

Show me a four-door sedan with a child seat in it that is powered by Thorium, then I’ll take a second look.


#20

A friend of mine is making a documentary about Thorium reactors: http://www.thoriumdocumentary.com/