Ho Li Crap -- they were right (almost)

Ultimate Geekdom.

First of all, Deuterium is one of the two stable isotopes of Hydrogen. They both have a single Electron orbiting the nucleus but the nucleus of Deuterium is one Proton and one Neutron (by itself called a Deuteron) while the nucleus of Hydrogen (or Proteum) has just the one Proton. It is not a common isotope but it is out there -- for every 6,420 atoms of H in seawater, there is one atom of 2H or Deuterium. Deuterium was named because of this dual nature. As a personal anecdote, I was once at a cocktail party ( late 1970's in Boston) where heavy water ice cubes were used for the drinks. They sink to the bottom of the glass -- very odd... You can buy 100 grams (about a cup) of Deuterium Oxide from here for $75 -- I remember it being a lot cheaper but that's inflation for you...

Back to the story -- from CNet News:

'Star Trek' fusion impulse engine in the works
There's a hierarchy of "Star Trek" inventions we would like to see become reality. We already have voice-controlled computers and communicators in the form of smartphones. A working Holodeck is under development. Now, how about we get some impulse engines for our starships?

The University of Alabama in Huntsville's Aerophysics Research Center, NASA, Boeing, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are collaborating on a project to produce nuclear fusion impulse rocket engines. It's no warp drive, but it would get us around the galaxy a lot quicker than current technologies.

According to Txchnologist, the scientists are hoping to make impulse drive a reality by 2030. It would be capable of taking a spacecraft from Earth to Mars in as little as six weeks:
"The fusion fuel we're focusing on is deuterium [a stable isotope of hydrogen] and Li6 [a stable isotope of the metal lithium] in a crystal structure," Txchnologist quotes team member and aerospace engineering Ph.D. candidate Ross Cortez saying. "That's basically dilithium crystals we're using." Let's pause and savor that for a moment. Dilithium crystals. Awesome.
Plenty of obstacles will need to be overcome during the development process. The issue of harnessing fusion is prominent, but there is also the question of turning the power generated by fusion into thrust for an engine. The craft using the impulse drive would also need to be assembled in space, much like the International Space Station.

"Imagine using a 1-ton TNT equivalent explosive and putting it out the back end of a rocket. That's what we're doing here," Cortez says in a press release about the project. Now we can all practice saying "full impulse power" to our imaginary starship navigators.

Needless to say, the links cited are meting down -- I can get scrambled text from time to time. I was able to connect enough to verify. A very big tip of the hat to The Silicon Graybeard for the link. I know Art imitates Life but it is not common for Life to imitate Art.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on October 3, 2012 9:14 PM.

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