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Materials that directly convert radiation into electricity could produce a new era of spacecraft and even Earth-based vehicles powered by high-powered nuclear batteries, say US researchers. Electricity is usually made using nuclear power by heating steam to rotate turbines that generate electricity. But beginning in the 1960s, the US and Soviet Union used thermoelectric materials that convert heat into electricity to power spacecraft using nuclear fission or decaying radioactive material. The Pioneer missions were among those using the latter, "nuclear battery" approach. Dispensing with the steam and turbines makes those systems smaller and less complicated. But thermoelectric materials have very low efficiency. Now US researchers say they have developed highly efficient materials that can convert the radiation, not heat, from nuclear materials and reactions into electricity.
Originally posted by bigfatfurrytexan
I think that the "big oil" companies already have the ability to generate energy in any manner they wish. The problem for them is entry. Further, at the level of tax revenue and payroll that these companies provide for, they have different rules to follow than your average mom and pop grocery. A major change such as that is not allowed for due to economic and security reasons. It is reinforced by the intermarriage of corporate America and Uncle Sam.
A good example of how "free energy" doesn't work for the people are windmills. Our city has bought and paid for some, and i know several people who are literally getting filthy rich out of leasing land space to windmill companies. There are tens of thousands of them around my town. All the way up to Lubbock, out to Pecos (and maybe further towards El Paso..haven't been that way in awhile), over to Abilene (Roscoe has had several poor people who are overnight wealthy) and south to San Angelo. This is just the 500 mile or so radius that i frequent. I am positive it goes further than that.
Out of all these tens of thousands of windmills making "free energy" (minus the pretty small start up and maintenance costs), you know what the impact is? Nothing. I pay the same amount for electricity (around 250-300 a month, as i am on "average billing" to prevent the 600 dollar shockers in the summer). My beautiful west Texas landscape now looks apocolyptic, and farm land is being used, alarmingly.
Now we see solar cells that are cheap and easy to manufacture using nanotech, as well as thermoelectric nanotech.
And the massive improvements in nano generators.
Not to mention the emerging field of photonics. There are so many options available that you start to wonder when the "average joe" will be able to account for making their OWN free energy while having the "schematics" being common knowledge.
Nanotech used to create improved Li-ion batteries
Making gasoline from carbon dioxide
Originally posted by Shadow
It might not be a conventional reactor, but that much decay heat concentrated in a large area is going to need some kind of cooling method to keep it under control. It could prove to be an excellent way to recycle, but there still has to be some kind of control and containment set up around it, it can't just sit there in a pile unmitigated...or at least that's what makes sense to me.
Originally posted by XL5
As for converting radiation into electricity. If they can make a chip or a sheet that is compact enough for the amount of energy a car needs (about 75HP AVG.), then we don't really need anything else. All that would be needed at that point is a thick lead box, lead terminals and a big lead bolt to hold the radioactive rod. Hopefully this does get developed and they use thorium as the source.
Originally posted by Shadow
Well it would be a nightmare from a maintenance perspective. Anything relied on for power, be it mechanical or solid state usually requires some form of preventative maintenance to prevent system breakdowns. The "bury and forget" mentality might not work so well for that reason. Now I could see the creation of facilities that double as waste storage and power generation stations, but there would still likely be a large amount of infrastructure surrounding them...just like more conventional power stations.
I'm not trying to be argumentative, it's just that since I work as a nuclear power plant electrical operator...it might be kind of hard for me to think outside of the box.