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Could this work?

dstebbins

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My son is very good at science. Today, he came home and started lecturing about radioactive decay and all that gobbledegook. Some of it I is a recap from my college physics class (it's amazing, isn't it, what used to be college level is now taught in 9th grade).

Anyway, one thing he tells me (that I remember now that I'm reminded) is that radioactive elements emit gamma radiation, which is just a very highly energized form of light. This made me think of solar power plants. They capture the energy that light contains and distributes it among the subscribers to their service.

That made me think of something interesting: Instead of worrying about the gamma radiation triggering a nuclear holocaust, could we capture it using the same methods that solar plants use to capture light? If we can create a solar absorber good enough to capture 99% of the gamma rays, couldn't we make nuclear plants perfectly safe?

I figured I'd ask for you guys' insight before I sent this idea to the Department of Energy.
 

ashurbanipal

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The problem with Gamma radiation is that it has such a high frequency that it penetrates all but the densest matter without losing any of that energy. Solar pannels work because part of the light hitting them gives up enough energy to free electrons from the material in the pannel itself.
 

Simon W. Moon

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And, if it did work, wouldn't the downside of a nuclear holocaust kind of outweigh the benefits of harvesting energy from background radiation?
 

dstebbins

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ashurbanipal said:
The problem with Gamma radiation is that it has such a high frequency that it penetrates all but the densest matter without losing any of that energy. Solar pannels work because part of the light hitting them gives up enough energy to free electrons from the material in the pannel itself.
well, then maybe we should USE the densest matter as our energy capturer.

Simon W. Moon said:
And, if it did work, wouldn't the downside of a nuclear holocaust kind of outweigh the benefits of harvesting energy from background radiation?
no no no. You're not listening to me. We would domesticate the very thing that poses the thread of a nuclear holocaust, thus NO MORE THREAT!

I'm sorry if I sound rude. I'm tactless at times.
 

tecoyah

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Two Words...."Spent Fuel"
 

OdgenTugbyGlub

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well, then maybe we should USE the densest matter as our energy capturer.
I don't know what material we could use for this, as lead (the element most commonly used to shield from gamma radiation) doesnt produce e- when exposed to gamma radiation (pretty sure it doesnt is what i learned in nuclear chem is right). I don't think its a likely solution, but i guess anything is possible.
 

dstebbins

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tecoyah said:
Two Words...."Spent Fuel"
?

OdgenTugbyGlub said:
I don't know what material we could use for this, as lead (the element most commonly used to shield from gamma radiation) doesnt produce e- when exposed to gamma radiation (pretty sure it doesnt is what i learned in nuclear chem is right). I don't think its a likely solution, but i guess anything is possible.
Maybe we could use the same material that solar plants use, only we squeeze the material to currently unthinkable levels of tightness. Think of it like geotexturing, only for an energy source.
 

OdgenTugbyGlub

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Maybe we could use the same material that solar plants use, only we squeeze the material to currently unthinkable levels of tightness. Think of it like geotexturing, only for an energy source.
Once again, I'm not 100% sure how this works, but I think its not the density of the material itself, but the density of the elements used to comprise it. Lead is a "heavy" enough element to cause the gamma rad. to lose energy, but I'm not sure the photophlactic (spl??) cells could do this, even compressed to great density. Even then, I'm not sure if gamma rad. would have the same affect as the relativly low-energy photon barrarge on the panel.
 

dstebbins

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OdgenTugbyGlub said:
Once again, I'm not 100% sure how this works, but I think its not the density of the material itself, but the density of the elements used to comprise it. Lead is a "heavy" enough element to cause the gamma rad. to lose energy, but I'm not sure the photophlactic (spl??) cells could do this, even compressed to great density. Even then, I'm not sure if gamma rad. would have the same affect as the relativly low-energy photon barrarge on the panel.
first of all, get a better sig (I just read it)

second, maybe I was wrong. It HAS been years since I studied nuclear physics. My apologies.

And hey, at least I'm being a man and admitting my defeat, which is a little too much to ask for 99% of the people on this site.:smile:
 

OdgenTugbyGlub

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first of all, get a better sig (I just read it)
I take offense to that sir, its a good a judge of a man as any other rule.... :lol:
 

kcasper

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dstebbins said:
My son is very good at science. Today, he came home and started lecturing about radioactive decay and all that gobbledegook. Some of it I is a recap from my college physics class (it's amazing, isn't it, what used to be college level is now taught in 9th grade).

Anyway, one thing he tells me (that I remember now that I'm reminded) is that radioactive elements emit gamma radiation, which is just a very highly energized form of light. This made me think of solar power plants. They capture the energy that light contains and distributes it among the subscribers to their service.

That made me think of something interesting: Instead of worrying about the gamma radiation triggering a nuclear holocaust, could we capture it using the same methods that solar plants use to capture light? If we can create a solar absorber good enough to capture 99% of the gamma rays, couldn't we make nuclear plants perfectly safe?

I figured I'd ask for you guys' insight before I sent this idea to the Department of Energy.

Believe me, there is great interest in the world in doing something in this direction. Over the years I've read about a few experiments.

Did you know that if you take a long metal bar and heat one side really hot and cool the other side it will generate a small electric current? Huge amount of effort, and minor successes. To date current experiments have the same problem, noone has managed to take low radioactive feul and use it as a viable large scale heat source, and noone has managed to find a way to absorb the radiation put out by radioactive material without puttlng an unresonable amount of work into it. Mind you, that I've read about anyway.

If you know how to achieve a radiation panel that can produce as much energy as a solar panel with a managable amount of radioactive material and work, then start planning to die rich. Everyone will want to know how you did it.

A solar panel's limitation is that it will take one and only one wavelength of solar energy and convert it to electric current. The material that absorbs this wavelength is solid and will reflect, or absorb as heat, all other wavelengths of light.
 

dstebbins

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OdgenTugbyGlub said:
Once again, I'm not 100% sure how this works, but I think its not the density of the material itself, but the density of the elements used to comprise it. Lead is a "heavy" enough element to cause the gamma rad. to lose energy, but I'm not sure the photophlactic (spl??) cells could do this, even compressed to great density. Even then, I'm not sure if gamma rad. would have the same affect as the relativly low-energy photon barrarge on the panel.
I'm sorry it took so long to post this, but I just thought of something

Perhaps, since photolactic cells only capture 1% of the energy, maybe we could use 100x the thickness. If a meter captures light, we'll use a hundred meters, or perhaps a kilometer, to capture the gamma rays. Would THAT work?
 

Engimo

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dstebbins said:
I'm sorry it took so long to post this, but I just thought of something

Perhaps, since photolactic cells only capture 1% of the energy, maybe we could use 100x the thickness. If a meter captures light, we'll use a hundred meters, or perhaps a kilometer, to capture the gamma rays. Would THAT work?
http://science.howstuffworks.com/solar-cell.htm

Read this, it will probably clear up most of the questions that you have about the idea.
 

dstebbins

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Engimo said:
http://science.howstuffworks.com/solar-cell.htm

Read this, it will probably clear up most of the questions that you have about the idea.
that doesn't tell me anything I didn't already know. Maybe if you were to give me the exact page that the info was on, I wouldn't have to painstakingly look through the entire article.
 

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dstebbins said:
that doesn't tell me anything I didn't already know. Maybe if you were to give me the exact page that the info was on, I wouldn't have to painstakingly look through the entire article.
You mean... painstakingly understand what they are talking about? If you actually read the whole thing, I guarantee that you'll find the questions that you asked answered.
 

Scarecrow Akhbar

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dstebbins said:
My son is very good at science. Today, he came home and started lecturing about radioactive decay and all that gobbledegook. Some of it I is a recap from my college physics class (it's amazing, isn't it, what used to be college level is now taught in 9th grade).

Anyway, one thing he tells me (that I remember now that I'm reminded) is that radioactive elements emit gamma radiation, which is just a very highly energized form of light. This made me think of solar power plants. They capture the energy that light contains and distributes it among the subscribers to their service.

That made me think of something interesting: Instead of worrying about the gamma radiation triggering a nuclear holocaust, could we capture it using the same methods that solar plants use to capture light? If we can create a solar absorber good enough to capture 99% of the gamma rays, couldn't we make nuclear plants perfectly safe?

I figured I'd ask for you guys' insight before I sent this idea to the Department of Energy.

No.

First off, nuclear energy is the safest form of electrical power generation there is, and it's totally benign to the environment.

Gamma radiation from the decay of fission products alone doesn't produce enough heat to make it worth collecting. After reactor shut down, when fission is reduced to less than criticality, energy has to be fed back into the coolant water to maintain shutdown temperatures within prescribed levels, usually within less than a day of shutdown. That depends on how long and how hard the reactor was running before shutdown.

Normal background radioactivity is far to weak to be useful. Sunlight is a useful power source inside the orbit of Mars because of it's intensity. It's very much like being able to use a waterfall to power a mill but not with a urinating puppy.

Missions to the outer solar system require onboard heat sources like plutonium to drive electrical systems, and the Russians have flown at least one true fission reactor that I'm aware of.
 

dstebbins

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Scarecrow Akhbar said:
No.

First off, nuclear energy is the safest form of electrical power generation there is, and it's totally benign to the environment.

Gamma radiation from the decay of fission products alone doesn't produce enough heat to make it worth collecting. After reactor shut down, when fission is reduced to less than criticality, energy has to be fed back into the coolant water to maintain shutdown temperatures within prescribed levels, usually within less than a day of shutdown. That depends on how long and how hard the reactor was running before shutdown.

Normal background radioactivity is far to weak to be useful. Sunlight is a useful power source inside the orbit of Mars because of it's intensity. It's very much like being able to use a waterfall to power a mill but not with a urinating puppy.

Missions to the outer solar system require onboard heat sources like plutonium to drive electrical systems, and the Russians have flown at least one true fission reactor that I'm aware of.
okay, that settles it. This wouldn't work. If everyone had just said this at the beginning, we could have saved ourselves a lot of bickering.
 

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dstebbins said:
okay, that settles it. This wouldn't work. If everyone had just said this at the beginning, we could have saved ourselves a lot of bickering.
For starters, not everyone has the knowledge required to answer the question, or have the knowledge to understand the question or the answer. Of course, that doesn't stop a lot of people who know nothing about physics, chemistry, engineering, etc. from putting in their 2 cents worth of opinion.:lol:
The world is a complicated place. Get Bill Bryson's book, A short history on almost everything, and read it. It will give you a real appreciation on the complexities of a lot of scientific subjects. It is well over 300 pages but will be hard to put down once you get started.
 

steen

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Nuclear energy is no safer than other fuel sources that wrestle with waste products.

But the big focus should be put into fusion energy. Abundant, clean, never run out. Then all the other stuff goes obsolete (and my heart won't bleed for Exxon or Haliburton when that happens)
 

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steen said:
Nuclear energy is no safer than other fuel sources that wrestle with waste products.

But the big focus should be put into fusion energy. Abundant, clean, never run out. Then all the other stuff goes obsolete (and my heart won't bleed for Exxon or Haliburton when that happens)
Again, a response from someone who knows very little about physics. You can't believe everything you read in Popular Science, or Popular Mechanics. Fusion energy may be in our future, our far distant future, but don't buy any stock in related industries for your grandchildren, as they won't see it either.
The one thing we can do now, cheaply and easily, is conserve the energy sources that we have, but nearly all of us are too lazy or selfish. Short of that, fission is the way to go. Almost nothing in the way of pollutants goes into the air or groundwater, and you would have to work very hard at it to get exposed to radiation from spent fuel. It involves crashing the gates, shooting the guards, etc. But that only produces electricity, there is still the oil issue to consider. If all our cars became battery powered, and that assumes many technological breakthroughs in battery design, we would need a lot more nuclear power plants to keep the batteries charged.
BTW, batteries do pollute. You have to consider any material used from mining/processing/refining to construction and then use and finally, disposal. Only during use do batteries look good when it comes to pollution. Every other step is dirty.
The same goes for solar cells.
 

steen

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UtahBill said:
BTW, batteries do pollute. You have to consider any material used from mining/processing/refining to construction and then use and finally, disposal. Only during use do batteries look good when it comes to pollution. Every other step is dirty.
The same goes for solar cells.
As I said.
 

Scarecrow Akhbar

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steen said:
Nuclear energy is no safer than other fuel sources that wrestle with waste products.

But the big focus should be put into fusion energy. Abundant, clean, never run out. Then all the other stuff goes obsolete (and my heart won't bleed for Exxon or Haliburton when that happens)
Of course it is. Nuclear waste is contained inside the reactor until it's time to take it out. Then it's extracted under very controlled conditions and it's totally possible to "dispose" of the stuff in a very controlled manner, especially since in it's processed form it's only a few hundred pounds of waste per year.

Compare that to the millions of tons of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ash and particulate waste a carbon based fossil fuel facility generates.

How many people you know that've been killed by reactor waste lately?

Ah, fusion energy, the Holy Grail of all earthbound energy. What makes you think the process is "clean"? While I'm fully conversant with the theory of fusion and am perfectly aware that the fusion by-products are all low atomic number isotopes with fairly short half-lives, there's the practical engineering aspects of fusion technology that present significant rad-con problems. The neutrons generated in the fusion process go somewhere, and that somewhere is into the containment and support structure of any possible fusion gadget. And thus some of the problems associated with fission
belong more properly to the entire class of nuclear power generators.

Besides which, we can decide against building fission reactors now, because we KNOW fusion is so much cleaner, then freeze to death in the dark waiting for someone to invent a working fusion reactor, or we can go ahead with fission for now, knowing it's far far better than fossil fuel, and converting to fusion power if and when it becomes available.

That's the sensible thing to do.

(Steen: Both Utah Bill and I have practical working experience with fission generated power.)
 
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steen

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Scarecrow Akhbar said:
Of course it is. Nuclear waste is contained inside the reactor until it's time to take it out. Then it's extracted under very controlled conditions and it's totally possible to "dispose" of the stuff in a very controlled manner, especially since in it's processed form it's only a few hundred pounds of waste per year.
I guess I should have been more clear. Yes, the wastes from the "other" energies DO kill people. The risk of nuclear power fuel might be less per year, but stretches further into the future. The total risk over time is relatively comparable.
(Steen: Both Utah Bill and I have practical working experience with fission generated power.)
Hey, don't get me wrong. I have absolutely no problem with nuclear power, it is MUCH safer that sending troops to Iraq to die for Haliburton's profit. I am supportive of nuclear power. I am merely pointing out that each industry has their own problem.
 

Scarecrow Akhbar

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steen said:
I guess I should have been more clear. Yes, the wastes from the "other" energies DO kill people. The risk of nuclear power fuel might be less per year, but stretches further into the future. The total risk over time is relatively comparable.
You have no basis for this claim.

If things were done properly, nuclear waste pose no threat whatsoever. I know the environmentalists would scream, but the best place to dispose of nuclear wastes are in canisters embedded in the abyssal plains of the deep blue sea. No place has a more stable environment, unchanging on the order of millions of year, no place is less accessible to man.

Done right, nuclear power doesn't have a down side.
 

steen

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Scarecrow Akhbar said:
You have no basis for this claim.

If things were done properly, nuclear waste pose no threat whatsoever. I know the environmentalists would scream, but the best place to dispose of nuclear wastes are in canisters embedded in the abyssal plains of the deep blue sea. No place has a more stable environment, unchanging on the order of millions of year, no place is less accessible to man.

Done right, nuclear power doesn't have a down side.
Hmm, I must admit not having heard of that one before. I have only heard of Yuka (sp?) Mountain, which never seemed that good an idea to me.
 
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