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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Nuclear Fuel - Peaceful uses and its future

We know that when mass m is converted into energy E , the magnitude of the energy that would be produced would be huge. It is given by the mass energy relation:

The present day nuclear systems are huge and spanning millions of square metres. However just like other aspects of technology in the future we may have nuclear power plants as small as few cubic centimetres across, that maybe capabled of controlled nuclear fission reaction. The heat generated by such a system maybe used to power steam powered car, power generator or a steam powered machine. 

In case scientists are able to make such a small nuclear reactor that can be safely inserted into a a car and can provide thermal energy to convert water into steam, then we may well have steam powered vehicles and electric generators. A few grammes of nuclear fuel is enough for its operation. 

However this is currently a wild idea considering the dangers of radiations that is emitted during nuclear fission reaction. However we know that with science anything is possible. 100 years ago if you have discussed Internet , space travel and 3d printing with anyone he would have called you crazy. But all the three are reality today. 

Surely in the future when we go for deeper space explorations the propellant in deep space would be nuclear fuel , that would accelerate the spacecraft to high speeds, ideally achieving speeds that are close to the speed of light. Only then the magic of relativistic physics would come into prominence.

When the speed of travel closes on to the speed of light, we can slow down time inside the space craft. The nearest star to earth is Alpha Centauri which is 4.3 light years away from earth. So time taken by a beam of light to get there and then come back to earth is around 8.6  light years.

If by using nuclear fuel we are able to accelerate the spacecraft to speeds that would almost equal the speeds of light . The space craft then can go near the star and come back to earth in about 9 years while time spent by the astronauts in the craft would be a few months. 

Later on when there would be even deeper space explorations the astronauts may come back after doing their research, but the ones who were with them before they departed would have been dead because the mission would have taken over hundred earth years while on the space craft the time period of the space exploration would have been just around a few months or years.  

Probably nuclear fuel is indeed the fuel of distant future, but not anytime soon. 

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