martes, 14 de julio de 2015

Boeing just patented a jet engine powered by lasers and nuclear explosions

Last week, the US Patent and Trademark Office approved an application from Boeing's Robert Budica, James Herzberg, and Frank Chandler for a laser- and nuclear-driven airplane engine.

With airplane makers constantly on the lookout for new and more efficient ways to power their products, this laser engine is the latest idea cooked up by the engineers at Boeing.

  • Modern airliners such as the Boeing Dreamliner are powered by multiple turbofan engines These engines deploy a series of fans and turbines to compress air and ignite fuel to produce thrust.
Boeing's newly patented engine provides thrust in a very different and rather novel manner. According to the patent filing, the laser engine may also be used to power rockets, missiles, and even spacecraft.

As of now, the engine lives only in patent documents. The technology is so out-there that it is unclear whether anyone will ever build it.

Here's how Boeing's new patented engine works.

Boeing's new jet engine works by firing high-power lasers at radioactive material, such as deuterium and tritium.

The lasers vaporize the radioactive material and cause a fusion reaction — in effect a small thermonuclear explosion.

Hydrogen or helium are the exhaust byproducts, which exit the back of the engine under high pressure. Thrust is produced.

At the same time, the inside wall of the engine's thruster chamber — coated in uranium 238 — reacts with the high-energy neutrons produced by the nuclear reaction and generates immense heat.

The engine harnesses the heat by running coolant along the other side of the the uranium-coated combustion chamber.

This heat-energized coolant is sent through a turbine and generator that produces electricity to power the engine's lasers. Yes, lasers!

Other than the radioactive material, the engine requires very little in terms of external energy.

Here's Boeing's patent.

Check out the full video description courtesy of PatentYogi:

Boeing has patented nuclear powered aircrafts. The engines of these aircrafts include a unique propulsion system.

A stream of pellets containing nuclear material such as Deutrium or Tritium is fed into a hot-stop within a thruster of the aircraft. Then multiple high powered laser beams are all focused onto the hot-spot. The pellet is instantly vaporized and the high temperature causes a nuclear fusion reaction. In effect, it causes a tiny nuclear explosion that scatters atoms and high energy neutrons in all directions. This flow of material is concentrated to exit out of the thruster thus propelling the aircraft forward with great force.

And this is where Boeing has done something extremely clever. The inner walls of the thurster are coated with a fissile material like Uranium-238 that undergoes a nuclear fission upon being struck by the high energy neutrons. This releases enormous energy in the form of heat. A coolant is circulated along the inner walls to pick up this heat and power a turbine which in turn generates huge amounts of electric power. And guess what this electric power is used for? To power the same lasers that created the electric power! In effect, this space-craft is self-powered with virtually no external energy needed. 

Soon, tiny nuclear bombs exploding inside a plane may be business as usual.

Patent Information:
US 9,068,562

Laser-powered propulsion system 

Inventors: Budica; Robert J., Herzberg; James S., Chandler; Frank O.
Assignee: The Boeing Company (Chicago, IL) 
Family ID: 1000000999407
Appl. No.: 13/645,816
Filed: October 5, 2012

A propulsion apparatus includes a propellant, at least one laser, and a thrust member. The propellant includes a solid surface having a hollow core disposed within the solid surface and a thrust-producing medium disposed within the hollow core. The at least one laser is positioned to vaporize the propellant with at least one laser-beam into a thrust-producing flow. The thrust member is for flowing within the thrust member a thrust-producing flow created by vaporization of the propellant.

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ORIGINAL: Business Insider

Jul. 7, 2015, 5:27 PM 

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