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8 Grams of Thorium Could Replace Gasoline In Cars

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the it's-cheap-on-the-auction-house-too dept.

Transportation 937

An anonymous reader writes "Thorium, an abundant and radioactive rare earth mineral, could be used in conjunction with a laser and mini turbines to easily produce enough electricity to power a vehicle. When thorium is heated, it generates further heat surges, allowing it to be coupled with mini turbines to produce steam that can then be used to generate electricity. Combining a laser, radioactive material, and mini-turbines might sound like a complicated alternative solution to filling your gas tank, but there's one feature that sells it as a great alternative solution: 1 gram of thorium produces the equivalent energy of 7,500 gallons of gasoline."

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Hmmm (5, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070600)

So when I go to the gas station and ask them for a couple of grams, I might get Thorium some day? ;)

Re:Hmmm (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070762)

Depends on the neighborhood.

Re:Hmmm (3, Interesting)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070884)

"abundant" "rare earth mineral"

Sounds like like it's only relatively abundant.

Also sounds like 1g of Thorium probably only translates to 7500 gal of gasoline under optimal conditions, which I take to mean unrealistic efficiencies and economies of scale beyond what's achievable for a turbine that would fit in a small car. Just one of the silly things about steam turbines, they're only really efficient enough to be practical when they're really really big (like, 777 or better yet factory-sized).

Re:Hmmm (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070964)

but in a motorcycle it certainly would be doable. Imagine the typical European motorcycle for commuting the Honda NT700 it is light and has a small engine. now imaging buying a motorcycle that you never have to put gas in. That would be a game changer for large parts of the world. Even the USA would see a sudden major surge of small motorcycle sales if a motorcycle like that were made.

And look who has the most (0)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070604)

And of course, the U.S. has the largest supply according to the chart. How convenient.

Re:And look who has the most (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070660)

You say it like it's a bad thing for people in a country to figure out how to use the resources they happen to have a large quantity of laying around.

Re:And look who has the most (1, Interesting)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070738)

It is a bad thing that in 2011 we're still trying to use non-renewable resources to power transportation for everyone. Even with the US having 400000 tons of thorium, I figure that's enough to power 150 billion cars. Sound like a lot, not really. In 100 years we'll be back to the same spot we are now and be guilty of pushing the problem off to our descendants.

Re:And look who has the most (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070832)

Fuck, 100 years is better than 20 years.

Re:And look who has the most (2)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070842)

So what's the cutoff for you? Is 1,000 years long enough?

Re:And look who has the most (0)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070990)

How about the lifetime of a star.

Re:And look who has the most (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070878)

It is a bad thing that in 2011 we're still trying to use non-renewable resources to power transportation for everyone.

Why? The other alternative is to leave it lying in the ground where it's useless to anyone.

Saying 'but then our kids can use it' would be stupid because people will be making the same arguments a hundred years from now.

Re:And look who has the most (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070904)

If by "pushing of the problem" you mean efficiently coming up with solutions to our problems using the best technology available, then yes that's exactly what we would be doing. If they had tried to come up with a renewable energy source before unleashing the auto mobile, we still would be riding horses around. research and development of renewable energy sources is important and should be on going, but that doesn't mean that we don't use the best solution currently available.

Re:And look who has the most (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070920)

The sun will go out one day too. Whatever will we do then?

It's good to have some foresight, but if you refuse to touch anything that might prove temporary, you refuse to touch anything at all.

Re:And look who has the most (1)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | more than 3 years ago | (#37071004)

There are no true renewable resources (even the sun will eventually be 'used up'). So, unless you advocate only developing technologies that can still work after the heat death of the universe, there is nothing wrong with technologies that lessen our dependence on fossil fuels.

Re:And look who has the most (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070666)

Sweet!

Oh, wait, you probably meant that in some snarky "uh-meerrri-i-cuuh" tone with conspiratorial undertones.

abundant and rare? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070614)

That seems like an odd combo.

Re:abundant and rare? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070984)

Put it this way. It's not as abundant as Iron or Aluminum but are rare earth metals go, there's a lot of it.

But don't worry, even though the Thorium as a nuclear fuel produces less waste and of a less toxic long lasting king that current fission powered reactors, the anti-anything-nuclear gang will keep this tied up in protests, legal wrangling and political incorrectness so that it never leaves the ground.

Fatal assumption: people as reasonable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070624)

Once people hear that the word "radioactive" can be reasonably associated with the fuel in their vehicles, this technology will very quickly go the way of the dodo.

Re:Fatal assumption: people as reasonable (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070834)

No this is great! It'll be putting another tax on stupidity, the anti-nuclear crowd will have to pay for gas in their cars while we drive around at a tiny fraction of the cost! I don't like the carbon capping schemes I've seen so far but if we come up with a good one, that will hurt them even more! I'm all for it!

I'm already imagining hooking up 2-4 of these reactors in my car to build a poor man's Tesla Roadster! Muahahaha! >:D

Re:Fatal assumption: people as reasonable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070936)

Oh you mean "cheap" as in "nuclear energy is cheap because corporations don't have to pay for insurance and all risks are carried by the people while all profits go to said corporations"?

Re:Fatal assumption: people as reasonable (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070994)

People associate the word "explosive" with gassoline. It didn't go the way of the dodo. People don't assume fuel is safe.

I predict (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070626)

That thorium powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within 10 years !

OK, go ahead and break it out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070628)

I normally hate the 'whatcouldpossiblygowrong' tag with the fury of a thousand suns, but this one time it seems okay.

Re:OK, go ahead and break it out (1)

tthomas48 (180798) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070742)

It's apparently not particularly radioactive and CAN be blocked by tinfoil. So we can either put a small shield around it, or you can use your existing tinfoil suit. Your choice.

Re:OK, go ahead and break it out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070844)

really? i bet that's what people said when someone suggested tossing highly flammable liquid into a small vehicle, mere feet away from its occupant, and making it explode in order to power an engine. that's just insane! someone could get burned!

NIMBY (3, Interesting)

ddxexex (1664191) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070630)

Unfortunately, this technology probably won't get to far after people read the word 'radioactive', even though I'd hazard to guess that 8g of Thorium probably has less environmental and health impact than 7,500 gallons of gasoline. Otherwise it sounds awesome. Is there another word for 'radioactive' we can use to get rid of the negative connotation?

Re:NIMBY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070694)

It probably gives off less radiation than all the coal that's burnt to power an electric car.

Re:NIMBY (2)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070726)

Unfortunately, this technology probably won't get to far after people read the word 'radioactive', even though I'd hazard to guess that 8g of Thorium probably has less environmental and health impact than 7,500 gallons of gasoline. Otherwise it sounds awesome. Is there another word for 'radioactive' we can use to get rid of the negative connotation?

"Have you tried our new Frosted Thorium Cereal?"

"Hey, wait. I thought that Thorium is radioactive."

"Aha - you're referring to our special CoolDecay technology! It's Alpha-parti-tastic!! (tm)"

Re:NIMBY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070754)

perhaps they can draw a comparison with the amount of radiation from a smoke detector.

Re:NIMBY (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070886)

How about "magic"?

So which is it? (1)

the_rajah (749499) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070646)

"Thorium, an abundant and radioactive rare earth mineral,"... Is it abundant, or is it rare?

Re:So which is it? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070710)

your knowledge is rare
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_earth_element

Re:So which is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070736)

It says it is a rare earth metal, not that it is rare. Rare earth metals are often quite abundant, just not concentrated, so can be difficult to extract.

Re:So which is it? (4, Informative)

kimvette (919543) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070758)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_earth_element [wikipedia.org]

Despite their name, rare earth elements (with the exception of the radioactive promethium) are relatively plentiful in the Earth's crust, with cerium being the 25th most abundant element at 68 parts per million (similar to copper). However, because of their geochemical properties, rare earth elements are typically dispersed and not often found in concentrated and economically exploitable forms known as rare earth minerals.[3] It was the very scarcity of these minerals (previously called "earths") that led to the term "rare earth". The first such mineral discovered was gadolinite, a compound of cerium, yttrium, iron, silicon and other elements. This mineral was extracted from a mine in the village of Ytterby in Sweden; many of the rare earth elements bear names derived from this location.

Re:So which is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070768)

Abundant. Rare Earth metals, of which thorium is not one (only lanthanides - the top row of the bottom two in the periodic table) are not really rare, some are more common than, say, tin.

Re:So which is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070770)

"Thorium, an abundant and radioactive rare earth mineral,"...

Is it abundant, or is it rare?

"Rare Earth" is just a name for a certain class of elements in the periodic table, it doesn't mean they're necessarily scarce.

Re:So which is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070824)

Rare-earth != rare, not necessarily anyway. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_earth_element:

Despite their name, rare earth elements (with the exception of the radioactive promethium) are relatively plentiful in the Earth's crust, with cerium being the 25th most abundant element at 68 parts per million (similar to copper).

Re:So which is it? (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070830)

"Thorium, an abundant and radioactive rare earth mineral,"... Is it abundant, or is it rare?

"Rare earth" is a bit of a misnomer. It's rarer than silicon, aluminum, or iron, but there's still a lot of it to be found rather easily.

Wikipedia says thorium is about as common as lead.

Re:So which is it? (2)

erice (13380) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070852)

"Thorium, an abundant and radioactive rare earth mineral,"...

Is it abundant, or is it rare?

"rare earth" doesn't mean rare. "Rare earth's" are a class of elements that are fairly common in the Earth's crust but not often concentrated enough for profitable mining. The concentrated deposits that do exist tend to have many kinds of rare earth's which makes the extraction that much more difficult because they are chemically similar.

Re:So which is it? (1)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070900)

We are space-men of Mars. This rare Earth-mineral of yours intrigues us.

Oh, it's "Rare-Earth mineral", not "Rare Earth-mineral"? Not interested.

How abundant can rare earth metal really be? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070648)

Although this material is finite, it still sounds better than oil. Too bad anything radioactive is probably not going to be accepted by this generation of terrorist fearing and nuclear plant closing people.

Re:How abundant can rare earth metal really be? (1)

residieu (577863) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070748)

Don't tell them that their smoke detectors may contain Americium, a radioactive element. But I guess that's ok since it's named after America and thus Patriotic. An element named after a foreign God isn't going to get cut the same kind of slack.

Re:How abundant can rare earth metal really be? (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070804)

However you look at it, it will produce the electrical power enough to run a car many times over. A simple short would be enough to create quite a large explosion, given the right condition.

Ever short-circuited a lead-acid battery of large power? You can easily maim lots of people, if that's your objective. My dad did it once in a warehouse (pre-health-and-fecking-safety) by putting a spanner on a fork-truck battery. You can literally blow the fork truck to pieces and they were scraping acid off the walls and ceiling for weeks.

Anything that's powerful enough to run your car is powerful enough to be misused to car lots of damage. Lithium batteries, hydrogen tanks, LPG bottles, you name it. If you can push a ton of metal a couple of hundred miles with it, and you can release that power almost instantaneously, you have an explosive and deadly device.

So there will NEVER be a "safe" car until we work out how to not carry that much energy about, or never be able to ever possibly release the energy it that quickly.

This brings Fallout 3 to mind (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070652)

especially the amazing (and potentially deadly) nuclear explosion caused when you breach the containment on a 200-year-old nuclear engine in a derelict car.

I have no idea how late-21st-century society in the Fallout reality could have gotten by with car accidents with nuclear detonations instead of gasoline fires.

I learned very early on no to take cover near a car with an engine during a firefight. I swear some of the NPCs choose to shoot up the car to kill you with the explosion.

OTOH, starting a chain reaction in a highway crowded bumper-to-bumper with abandoned cars is awesome.

energy for laser? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070656)

and how do we generate power for lasers?

Re:energy for laser? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070788)

From the electricity the motor generates.

Re:energy for laser? (2)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070790)

You'd almost certainly need at least some battery power between the generator and the drive-train. The battery would handle temporary spikes in power (acceleration), etc. It would also allow you to run the laser for the 30 seconds required to get the reaction going.

And then comes the accident... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070672)

Oh yeah, great - and then I get into an accident and spread radioactive thorium all over the road along with my body parts.

Eh, whats a little radioactivity right? Just ask the folks in Fukushima...

Yeah, right. (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070684)

From the article:

A 250 MW unit weighing about 500 lbs. (227 kg) would be small and light enough to drop under the hood of a car, he says.

250 megawatts? Somebody is just making up numbers. Takeoff power for a 747 is about 100MW.

Re:Yeah, right. (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070756)

Come on, everyone needs a 335,255 HP car.

Re:Yeah, right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070780)

I'm sure he just make a simple mistake - _clearly_ he meant 250 jiggawatts.

Re:Yeah, right. (1)

ATestR (1060586) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070782)

Can we say "Flying Cars"?

Re:Yeah, right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070838)

You only need 20-50 kW (per hour) to power a car/truck down the highway...

I do like the idea, I had the idea to use micro nuclear power to power cars. Even waste nuclear fuel would be enough to do this.

Re:Yeah, right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070922)

250KW seems more realistic.... and still PLENTY of energy ("The [Chevy] Volt is propelled by an electric motor with a peak output of 111 kW (149 hp)" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Volt#Drivetrain) to get 300+ HP by itself less when it powers it's own laser (seriously doubt a laser using more than ~10kW)

how big for one that can out put 1.2 gigawatts at (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#37071008)

how big for one that can out put 1.2 gigawatts at 88MPH?

I want to power my house with this (2)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070688)

allowing it to be coupled with mini turbines to produce steam that can then be used to generate electricity.

Forget cars... every house could use one of these Thorium generators to produce its own power.

We'd no longer need a massive, failure-prone, expensive, inefficient electrical grid to get electricity.

if 1 gram = 7500gal, then a kilogram will power my house for a hundred years or more.

Re:I want to power my house with this (0)

Skapare (16644) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070970)

Forget cars... every house could use one of these Thorium generators to produce its own power.

Not to worry, the electrical power generating industry, just like the oil industry, would never allow this to make it to market.

Re:I want to power my house with this (3, Interesting)

a_nonamiss (743253) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070978)

What's more, you could charge a battery powered electric vehicle at your house, and save the need for you to lug around a small nuclear reactor in your car. The article talks about the difficulties of miniaturizing it for use in cars. Simple solution: don't. We already have batteries that fit nicely into a car and have a range nearing 300 miles, in 10 years that range will probably be 10 times what it is today. Plus, if it meant efficient energy, I wouldn't really mind something the size of a box truck in my backyard, or my basement. Hell, you could probably bury most of the reactor underground.

Where? (4, Funny)

wsxyz (543068) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070696)

Where does the shark go? There's got to be a shark involved somewhere.

Why electricity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070706)

Why not use the expansion and contraction of the water's phase change to directly turn a driveshaft instead? You'd waste a lot of energy via the conversion to electricity. Nevermind the fact that the added electronics would be hell on landfills when the cars ultimately end up there.

250 MW laser? (2)

Pigeon451 (958201) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070708)

According to the article, the thorium takes 30 seconds of heating before it can be used. Where does the power to run the 250 MW laser come from during this time? Or even after?

This is just some guy trying to drum up support for his startup. A combination of mining issues, radioactivity (what happens in a car crash -- call out the hazmat team!) and unproven efficiency beg this to fail.

Re:250 MW laser? (1)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070776)

It can come from the shark, that is why we mount lasers on sharks.

Re:250 MW laser? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070796)

RTFA, your tinfoil hat will protect you from the amount of radiation in these devices.

Re:250 MW laser? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070808)

The same place your car's starter gets the energy to crank the engine, from a battery.

Re:250 MW laser? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070828)

According to the article, the thorium takes 30 seconds of heating before it can be used. Where does the power to run the 250 MW laser come from during this time? Or even after?

You jump-start it with another 250MW thorium laser.

It's thorium all the way down [wikipedia.org] .

Where is the energy coming from? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070728)

There's something seriously lacking in the explanation. "When thorium is heated, it generates further heat surges." Where do these come from?

Nuclear fission? Perhaps possible, but why does it need to be heated for it?
Alpha and beta decay? Again, possible and even happens, but in that case 1 gram isn't going to be nearly enough.
Or perhaps thorium is being used as a store of energy, but there are better materials for it and a gram is again tiny.

My bullshit detector is beeping silently in the background...

Parent is best reply so far (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070856)

The article doesn't even make sense physically.

Soo... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070730)

"Thorium, an abundant and Radioactiverare earth mineral"....Sounds safe?

Uh oh (1)

rdpratt (1854096) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070734)

What happens in a car crash? Will eight grams of thorium be ejected all over the intersection?

Re:Uh oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37071010)

Fuel tanks rarely rupture in present-day crashes, and I'm sure it's easier to contain eight grams of thorium than 15 gallons of gas.

*chuckle* The 50's dream! (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070760)

Every home with an atomic pile! Atomic cars! It's the 50's atomic utopia!

So, what's the thorium turn into once it's been used? That's one big question. How much radioactivity does it generate and what kinds when it is being used? And will we ever get over the fright of people having 'nuclear cars'? Will it be much worse for someone to be in possession of 8 grams of thorium than a truckload of fertilizer and some diesel fuel?

Re:*chuckle* The 50's dream! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070966)

Radon [wikipedia.org] , among other things, although I imagine that 8g of Radon gas could be safely stored for less than the cost of 60,000 gallons of gasoline.

Oil Companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070772)

This one won't be killed by fear & paranoia over the word "radioactive" ... it'll be killed by the oil companies. Either that, or they start harvesting it and charge us US$30,000/gram.

Oil companies will get the patent and shut it down (1)

cod3r_ (2031620) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070792)

anything that would be a good alternative to gas will get squashed.

Re:Oil companies will get the patent and shut it d (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070892)

anything that would be a good alternative to gas will get squashed.

How's that 200mpg carburettor working out for you?

Re:Oil companies will get the patent and shut it d (2)

CrtxReavr (62039) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070938)

This is true. Back in the '50s the oil companies buried the patent for the carburetor that got 100 mpg. In fact, they used a car equipped with just such a carburetor to get all those people with rifles off that grassy knoll.

Missing critical info (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070806)

will that give us flying cars by 2015? Marty will be surprised if we dont make them on time, and history depends on that.

Re:Missing critical info (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070874)

I was just reading the summary and in my head:

"It's no big deal, we just need some plutonium"
"Plutonium!! I'm sure in 1985 you can find plutonium in every corner drugstore, but this is 1955!"

Why convert the steam to electricity? (1)

Scooter_Libby (939947) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070810)

It this works as reported, why not use the heat to directly power the vehicle with steam power, rather than go through the redundant process of converting the steam to electricity which drives an electric motor to convert it to velocity? It seems one could eliminate the weight and expense of the electric drive motors, and the steam-powered electric generators in vehicle applications.

Good thing I have a stash.... (3, Funny)

babywhiz (781786) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070816)

In my alts guild bank. Now everyone is gonna be in Un'goro with their bots....wait.....

Water consumption? (2)

DigiTechGuy (1747636) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070818)

Doesn't solve the problem of steam inefficiency. There were plenty of steam cars and even the more efficient ones that reclaimed some of the steam were never particularly great on water consumption. You'd likely need to stop more often for water than you currently do for gas, and water is of course quite bulky and heavy just like gas. It's a cool idea either way, but I'd prefer a mechanical drive setup like traditional steam cars and steam engines.

Re:Water consumption? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070992)

Which is why this tech would make more sense to power a home that then provides recharging for an electric car.

Laws of Thermodynamics ??? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070822)

Are they being followed in this article? What I do not understand is how slight radioactivity can produce more heat than is required to start the process, and how 1 gram is 7,500 gallons of gas. What in the thorium model is being consumed, and how is it being consumed without radioactive decay? Makes no sense...

No more gas flap and cap... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070846)

Sounds good, but I will only buy one if they design the thorium receptacle to look like a "Mr Fusion" machine.

Fraud (1, Insightful)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070860)

Majikal lasers hitting thorium, and whoosh, electricity? What is the physical mechanism for harvesting this electricity?

This smells like naked fraud.

Re:Fraud (2)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070980)

heat -> steam -> turbines -> electricity

its in the bloody summary

Re:Fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070996)

No, "majikal" lasers hitting thorium, and whoosh, HEAT. Which creates steam to spin steam turbines, you incompetent jackwagon. You didn't even have to read HALF of the summary to find that out.

250MW ? (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070862)

250MW is enough to power 5000 homes running the 200 amps that would overload most breaker panels. Realistically, it could power 25000 to 50000 homes, easily. If you can do that in 227 kg unit, then this is how we should be building power plants.

This has to be a major typo. Even 250KW is a lot of power to get out of a unit that small (can still run 5 to 50 homes). Maybe 250W? Now it's just a bit small to power a car.

My only question... (1)

Pollux (102520) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070864)

Hedrick, the industrial minerals expert, says ... switching to thorium-driven cars would make the U.S. energy self-sufficient, and carbon emissions would plummet. “It would eliminate the major need for oil,” he says. “The main (remaining) demand would be for asphalt for roadways, natural gas, plastics and lubricants.”

Almost 50% of crude oil is unleaded gasoline. If we still refine crude for asphalt, plastics, etc., what do we do with all that unnecessary gasoline?

Minature turbines? (1)

Seeker999 (936811) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070890)

Ok, so you've got heat. What about the mini turbines? Do the turbines that would fit in this car exist and can they do what they are expected to do? 227 kilos is a fairly heavy engine. Would its weight be largely the turbines? How well does it scale? Could you build a tractor-trailer around it?

who needs flying cars? (1)

phlegmofdiscontent (459470) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070928)

I've been wanting a nuclear-powered car for years and I may get my wish! Granted, it's not fission or fusion, but still a cool concept.

But professor.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070932)

watch out for the Libyans!

go4t (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070956)

the Deal with you

Terrible Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070968)

This might make sense for something like a land yacht (RV's, buses, and tractor-trailers) where existing gasoline and diesel are inefficient, and the vehicle has to often go through areas that have no fueling stations for days. Pretty much northern BC, Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, Alaska, Siberian Russia, Greenland, and Antarctica. I'd be more interested in seeing how to make this work with a Jet/Airplane so they're not flying bombs.

But for the average car, no, this is a terrible idea, the radioactivity would be released every single winter as hundreds of hopeless morons wreck their cars in foul weather.

This sounds too much like Mr.Fusion.

Que the environmental wackos! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070976)

3, 2, 1 ...

Environmentalists are as bad as the religious zealots of the dark ages...

Mod me down but I'm just writing what everyone else is thinking!

Or a complete lie. (4, Insightful)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 3 years ago | (#37070982)

Radioactive decay can't be stimulated by lasers.
The original article links eventually to what is basically a crackpot attempting to steal investors money.
The whole basis of the article is a complete fabrication, or at best delusion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactivity [wikipedia.org] "Radioactive decay is a stochastic (i.e., random) process at the level of single atoms, in that, according to quantum theory, it is impossible to predict when a given atom will decay."

Disprove this - by making it nonrandom - and you as a starting point have just got a nice shiny Nobel prize.

A perfect solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37070998)

This is great news. Now cars will put out water vapor instead of horrible greenhouse gasses. Plus there is ALWAYS an abundant supply of water everywhere.

It's apparently abundant but insufficient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37071014)

According to the article there are an estimated 440,900 tons in the US, and 1 gram could replace 7500 gallons of gasoline.

So if we liberated the entire US supply of thorium, we end up with the equivalent of 3*10^15 grams of oil, or .72% of world oil production for 2004.

So the US supply would get the world through part of a year, India's a year plus, and after that?

Interesting idea, but considering this effort would require retrofitting the entire worldwide auto fleet not sure if its the best option on the table right now.

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=%28440%2C900+tons+in+grams%29+*+7500

Please correct me if the units are off.

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