Artificial gravity of 1g is possible inside a 1st generation Enterprise by using a magnetically suspended wheel rotating at 2.0 RPM.
May 22nd, 2013
I have written often about how Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) devices may create an energy revolution on Earth. But what can LENR do for the Gen1 Enterprise? I wrote about this last September and concluded:
“Keep in mind that the Gen1 Enterprise is all about using technologies that are clearly within our reach. Regarding LENR devices and the theories that explain how they work – this is all still in its infancy. It would be extremely high risk to assume that the power source for the Gen1 Enterprise can be a LENR reactor that achieves energy densities on the same order as conventional nuclear fission reactors. So I’m just not seeing a fit for LENR technologies in the Gen1 Enterprise at this time.”
But this was written before I had heard about the Andrea Rossi’s “Hot ECAT” and this weeks new independent test results of it by four scientists. So where above I said it is extremely high risk to assume LENR would be ready for the Enterprise, I think that is no longer true. The non-Hot ECAT is now in production. (Order one here.) And the Hot ECAT prototype is mature enough that it worked adequately throughout the new independent tests (except for the one that melted down ).
Unless these test results are not valid (extremely unlikely) I now think that LENR has very high potential to be used in the primary nuclear power systems on the Really Big E. Keep in mind that LENR technologies have the potential to impact every item we know of that uses energy, including spacecraft and aircraft, and the Enterprise is no exception.
On Rossi’s site he has a brief description of the Hot ECAT here. He says it operates over 350 – 1050 °C. So why is he bothering with making an ECAT that runs hotter than his current 1MW ECAT model? This is for a reason that should be familiar to BTE readers. If it runs hotter, when it is bolted on to a heat engine then the heat engine will run more efficiently when driving a generator to create electricity So just like with the Enterprise, larger power plants on Earth benefit from hotter heat sources.
But for the Enterprise we have to get rid of all of the heat engine waste heat using radiators only. We can’t use giant water-based cooling towers like electric power generation plants do on Earth. So on the Enterprise we would ideally want an Ultra-Hot ECAT. We want it as hot as possible so that the heat engine efficiency can be high while the total radiator area remains manageable.
So let’s say an Ultra-Hot ECAT is possible. How hot should it run? In this post I suggested a reactor that runs at 1800 degK (1527 degC) would be nice (assuming materials can be found to support this). I showed that this could give high efficiency:
- Tcold = 600 degK (radiator), Thot = 1800degK (reactor)
- Carnot Efficiency = 1 – Tcold/Thot = 1 – 600/1800 = 66.7%
So if Rossi’s Hot ECAT prototype in spots runs at 1000 degC, it’s conceivable that an Ultra-Hot ECAT could run at an average of 1527 degC.
But why bother with LENR? Michel Lamontagne pointed out that conventional fission reactors are “remarkably small objects, and as hot as current materials can handle”. So it’s true that LENR reactors may not give a size or temperature advantage. But while fission reactors can get the basic job done of powering the Enterprise, LENR reactors give several secondary benefits:
- No nuclear waste
- Social acceptability (some people won’t like large fission reactors orbiting Earth)
- Ship safety regarding potential nuclear accidents
- Reduced background radiation emitted by the power system
I think that reasons #2-4 are important. Reason #1 I don’t think is too important because sending fission reactor waste to the sun should work okay. But for #2, getting away from using highly radioactive fission cores in orbit has a lot of value regarding selling the Enterprise to the world public. For #3, although a nuclear accident could certainly be avoided – and the fission reactor jettisoned away if a problem did arise – it would just be nice to eliminate the fission nuclear reactor core altogether. And for #4, the less radiation that people encounter the better, although with a fission reactor it would likely not be any worse than for a worker at a nuclear power plant on Earth. Another reason #4 is desirable is that low-level radiation from the fission reactors might somewhat blind on-board Enterprise telescopes.
So I can’t say yet that the baseline technology for the nuclear power systems on the Enterprise should be declared changed from fission reactors to LENR reactors, but I would say that it is now a close call. Fission reactors are still a proven technology. And we also have to be sure that a LENR reactor can run hot enough for the Enterprise. So let’s wait for the dust to settle in the scientific community regarding this latest independent testing of the Hot ECAT. Then it may be time to declare LENR as the new baseline technology for the Big E’s power systems.