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So what is Laser Power Systems' fuel of choice, exactly? It's a heavy-metal element called thorium. And according to the company, eight grams of the silvery metal is enough to power a car throughout its lifespan. Included in the set-up needed to run the car is a laser that heats the thorium. The heat surges produced by the element create steam from the water within a mini-turbine, providing the energy needed to run the car.
The element is plentiful enough — the United States has an estimated reserve of 440,000 tons of thorium. But no large-scale facilities dedicated to mining thorium exist, and it would take a lot of money to establish mining operations.
Larger issues like where to get the thorium aside, Laser Power Systems still has to work on a turbine small enough to fit under a car's hood, but powerful enough to run the vehicle.
Originally posted by NeoVain
reply to post by Vitchilo
Well what would power the laser? Battery? Then it would need to recharge right? Sounds like just another variant of electic car.
Originally posted by posthuman
The heat runs the laser (which is generating the heat) AND the turbine?????? Wow sounds like perpetual motion to me? Especially if the heat charges the laser's battery...
Originally posted by DivineIntervention
I can guarantee you this will never see the light of day because of one thing...OIL. The oil companies want their money. They have a huge influence in Washington and all across the world. It's because of this greed that the human race is being held back. We have technology that we could not even imagine, that is being held back because of money. It's completely selfish.
Originally posted by roguetechie
OK so for those that are wondering how this would work:
What they are proposing is a small sealed nuclear power generation setup including a closed loop turbine assembly which generates the power to run the vehicle.
This is not perpetual motion.... it's just plain old nuclear physics.
Examining the reactions inside a thorium-fueled reactor, however, reveals some important differences. In a traditional light water reactor, uranium-235 interacts with uranium-238 to produce plutonium-239 as a byproduct—a radioactive isotope that can be used for weapons. But when thorium is used instead of uranium-238 as a fertile material to kickstart nuclear fission, the thorium eventually "becomes uranium-233, which fissions almost instantaneously in the reactor, generating other isotopes that make power," Grae says. That means usable weapons-grade nuclear material is not produced, which would theoretically eliminate some security issues now associated with nuclear plants. Grae also claims thorium-powered light water reactors produce a much smaller volume of waste products that decay to relatively safe levels in just six to seven hundred years. Lightbridge has completed test runs of its thorium-based fuels in Russia and hopes to conduct tests at Idaho National Labs next year, meaning its thorium-fueled reactors could be up and running here in the U.S. as early as 2015.
Read more: Thorium and Nuclear Power - Next Gen Nuclear Power - Popular Mechanics
Some benefits of thorium fuel when compared with uranium were summarized as follows:[dead link]
Weapons-grade fissionable material (233U) is harder to retrieve safely and clandestinely from a thorium reactor;
Thorium produces 10 to 10,000 times less long-lived radioactive waste;
Thorium comes out of the ground as a 100% pure, usable isotope, which does not require enrichment, whereas natural uranium contains only 0.7% fissionable U-235;
Thorium cannot sustain a nuclear chain reaction without priming, so fission stops by default.
Natural thorium has little radioactivity, Stevens says. What isotopes there are could be blocked by aluminum foil, so the power unit’s 3-in. (7.6-cm) thick stainless-steel box should do the trick.
Stevens agrees, emphasizing his system is “subcritical.” This means no nuclear reaction occurs within the thorium. It remains in the same state and is not turned into uranium 233, which happens only if thorium is sufficiently super-heated to generate a fission reaction.