The Anonymous Widower

UK Space Agency And NNL Work On World’s First Space Battery Powered By British Fuel

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from the UK Government.

This is the sub-title.

The UK Space Agency and the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) are to collaborate on the world’s first space battery powered by Americium-241.

And these three paragraphs outline the project.

This work, commissioned and funded by the UK Space Agency from NNL, will be delivered in a new £19 million laboratory in Cumbria equipped with next-generation equipment and technology. It will deliver a sovereign supply of fuel for space batteries in the context of a global shortage, enabling the UK and its partners to pursue new space science and exploration missions.

Creating new highly-skilled jobs in the North West of England, it will drive innovation in radiochemistry and separations science and open a new market for the UK space sector.

Atomic space batteries, also known as Radioisotope Power Systems (RPSs), release heat as the radioactivity within them decays. The heat can be used directly to prevent spacecraft from freezing and it can be converted into electricity to power onboard systems. The batteries go on working for decades, without need for maintenance over the many years in which a spacecraft could be travelling.

These two paragraphs explain, why there is a need for a new type of atomic space batteries.

Considered ‘mission critical technologies’ by space agencies in the UK and around the world, all the Apollo missions had an atomic battery in tow, as has every rover that has gone to Mars. Until now, these have been powered by Plutonium-238, a radioisotope produced only in the US, where supply is limited, and Russia, so an alternative is urgently needed.

NNL, the UK’s national laboratory for nuclear fission, has been working on this endeavor since 2009, when its researchers first discovered that Americium-241, an alternative to Plutonium-238, is produced during the radioactive decay of used fuel from nuclear reactors and that it emits power for over 400 years.

With the supply plentiful – the new laboratory is being opened at NNL’s flagship Central Laboratory on the Sellafield site, home to the largest resource of Americium-241 available for extraction in the world – the new collaboration will turn a proven scientific concept into a fully-realised technology. It will be operational within the next four years and is expected to be first used on the European Space Agency’s Argonaut mission to the Moon and for future missions into deep space.

It would appear that Americium-241 has several advantages over Plutonium-238.

  • Plutonium-238 has supply problems
  • Who in their right mind, would buy a product like this from Russia or China?
  • The batteries have a life of 400 years.
  • There is plenty of suitable nuclear waste at Sellafield, from which Americium-241 can be extracted.

It looks like the first batteries could also be available in four years.

Aunt Margery

My late wife; C’s Aunt Margery was a lady, who needed a pacemaker. I seem to remember that after several of her pacemakers had run out of power and were replaced, and eventually she was fitted with a nuclear-powered pacemaker in the 1970s or 1980s.

This page on the Stanford University web site is entitled The History Of Nuclear Powered Pacemakers. It was written by Matthew DeGraw.

Many of these pacemakers in the 1960s and 1970s, were powered by Plutonium-238.

The last paragraph is entitled The Rise Of Lithium Battery Pacemakers And Fall Of Nuclear Pacemakers, where this is said.

Despite the often longer life-expectancies, nuclear pacemakers quickly became a part of the past when lithium batteries were developed. Not only did the technology improve, allowing for lighter, smaller, and programmable pacemakers, but doctors began to realize that this excessive longevity of nuclear pacemakers was excessive. Lithium pacemakers often last 10-15 years allowing for doctors to check in on their patients and replace either the batteries or the pacemakers themselves with new and improved technology as it is develops in those 10-15 year spans. While there are still several remaining patients with nuclear-powered pacemakers functioning in their bodies, it is likely that in the next few decades as these patients pass away, so will the once promising nuclear pacemakers.

Would the use of Americium-241 to power a nuclear pacemaker transform the economics of these devices?

I wonder, if there’s a cardiologist out there, who by chance reads this blog, who could answer my question!

 

December 9, 2022 Posted by | Energy, Health, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drax To Pilot More Pioneering New Carbon Capture Technology

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from Drax.

This is the first paragraph.

Renewable energy pioneer Drax has partnered with the University of Nottingham and Promethean Particles to trial a pioneering new bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) process at its North Yorkshire power station.

Normally, carbon capture from the flue gas of a power station uses a liquid solvent, which dissolves the carbon dioxide.

However, the process that Drax are trialling, uses porous compounds called metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) to absorb the carbon dioxide.

This page on the Promethean Particles web site described how their carbon-capture works.

Traditional solvent-based carbon capture systems require a significant amount of energy to regenerate the carbon-capturing material. In power generation applications, estimates put this energy penalty at up to 35% of the power station’s output. Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) capture carbon mainly through physical, not chemical means. This “trapping” process requires lower energy inputs to regenerate the MOFs and can therefore help achieve more energy-efficient carbon capture. By using MOF-based carbon capture, more of the power generated can go where it was intended, lowering the price of energy for consumers and CAPEX for the power generators.

Note.

  1. It is a physical rather than a chemical process.
  2. It is more energy efficient than traditional carbon-capture.

This Drax graphic from the press release, shows how this process can be incorporated into a power plant..

Note.

  1. The trial will last for two months and will be hosted within Drax’s BECCS incubation hub at its North Yorkshire Power Station.
  2. Metal Organic Frameworks are a unique class of solid sorbents offering lower operational costs and reducing potential environmental impacts.

Work to build BECCS at Drax could get underway as soon as 2024, with the creation of thousands of jobs.

Fifty years ago, I spent several months at ICI looking at the mathematics of different numbers and sizes of vessels of in a proposed chemical plant, to optimise the cost of the plant.

  • I suspect a similar analysis could be applied to this process.
  • It would surely be very suitable for Drax, whose main power station has four units fuelled by biomass and another fuelled by natural gas.
  • Are two columns containing MOF, the optimum number?
  • The calculation could involve a lot of permutations and combinations, which I’ve used to advantage for over fifty years.

I will follow this trial with interest.

Conclusion

This is another application of advanced physics and chemistry.

If Promethean Particles ever decide to go the crowdfunding route, I would look seriously at a small investment.

June 21, 2022 Posted by | Energy, Finance | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Energy Scavenging Nanogenerator Finds Power All Around Us

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Phys.org.

These are the opening two paragraphs.

Imagine a mobile phone charger that doesn’t need a wireless or mains power source. Or a pacemaker with inbuilt organic energy sources within the human body.

Australian researchers led by Flinders University are picking up the challenge of “scavenging” invisible power from low-frequency vibrations in the surrounding environment, including wind, air or even contact-separation energy (static electricity).

I’ve known people with pacemakers, including someone with a nuclear-powered one. But surely this would be better, as the power source would be everlasting.

I don’t think I know anyone with one now! Are they less common?

Conclusion

If this can be commercialised, it is a very interesting development.

 

October 21, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Health, World | | Leave a comment

Neutrino Energy And Renewable Energy Decisions

The title of this post, is the same as that pn this article from Cision.

This is the introductory paragraph.

While Fossil fuels pose serious dangers to the future of human civilization, the Neutrino Energy Group proposes safe, clean solutions to the modern energy crisis that will help humanity take genuine leaps forward in development.

I’ve read the whole article and it is interesting.

It could be the biggest development in energy since our ancestors discovered fire or the largest load of hype since ZETA  was built at Harwell in 1957. The latter was supposed to provide electricity too cheap to meter.

Every ten years or so, something like this pops up. The only thing different about this one, is that it has come from the Germans! Although in the 1930s. it was in Germany, where people like Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner were leading the world in nuclear research. They discovered nuclear fission for which Hahn won the Nobel Prize.

Meitner spent her last years in Cambridge and I’ve always wondered, if she ever met Rosalind Franklin, the other great female scientist of the time, who many believe should have also received a Nobel Prize. If they did or even if they didn’t, it would surely make a wonderful drama, in the style of Copenhagen.

Luckily for the world, these German nuclear scientists were often Jewish, so they left, probably robbing the Nazis of an atomic bomb. Many ended up on the Manhattan Project.

June 13, 2020 Posted by | World | , , , , , | 3 Comments

My Equilibrium INR Has Risen Under Lockdown

For something like four years my Warfarin regime has been to take 4 mg.  every day and to self test every Monday and Friday. It has been a simple regime that has worked well and my INR has stayed between two and three, with 2.4-2.6 being the common readings.

In other words what I would call as a Control Engineer, my equilibrium INR is spot on.

In the past, I have noticed that in times of hot weather my INR  has tended to rise and in times of cold weather, it has occasionally dropped. A change of dose to three or five mg. has generally kicked it back towards 2.5 mg.

Doctors and this Control Engineer would say that you shouldn’t chase the INR by constantly changing the dose.

Warfarin also seems to have a cumulative property. A couple of years, I had to have a small operation. I dropped the INR to 2.1 for the operation over three days, by cutting back to 3 mg. After the operation three days at 5 mg. brought it back to 2.5.

Under lockdown, my equilibrium INR rose initially to 3 on a dose of 4 mg. every day.

In a telephone conversation with my GP, we agreed to alternate the dose between 3 and 4 mg. every day. My INR now seems to be stabilising between 2.5 and 2.8.

Why has my equilibrium INR risen under lockdown?

My house can get hot, as it wasn’t designed and built correctly and because of that I am drinking a lot of fluids. When I prick my finger for the self-test, the blood seems more watery than usual, so are all those fluids diluting my blood and causing my INR to rise?

Bodies can’t disobey the laws of physics!

Oh! For a walk by the sea in the sun!

 

May 5, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , | 1 Comment

Could Modern Energy Systems Have A Secondary Role?

Close to where I live is a small heat and power system, that I wrote about in The Bunhill Energy Centre.

I first went over the centre during Open House.

Several of these modern systems are very good demonstrations of the principles of maths, physics and engineering.

So do these innovative energy systems do their bit in educating the next generation of scientists and engineers?

Some of the modern systems, that are in development like Highview Power’s energy storage using liquid air would be ideal for a secondary education role!

Most too, are very safe, as there are no dangerous processes or substances.

And in the next few years, there will be more systems all over the country and many in the hearts of towns and cities. Some schools, colleges and especially universities, will have their own innovative energy sources.

Liverpool University already has a system, which is described here.

January 16, 2020 Posted by | Energy Storage | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Cambridge Going To Save The World From Global Warming?

Watch this video!

And then visit Superdielectrics web site.

It does appear to be a  bunch of mad scientists in Cambridge, who’ve come up with the bizarre idea of using the material in soft contact lenses as an energy storage medium.

Link Up With Rolls-Royce

And then there’s this press release on the Rolls-Royce-Royce web site, which is entitled Rolls-Royce Links Up With UK-based Superdielectrics To Explore Potential Of Very High Energy Storage Technology.

Conclusion

I have been observing technology since the 1960s.

This is either one of those scientific curiosities , like cold fusion, that appear from time-to-time and then disappear into the scientific archives or a game-changer

I suspect we’ll know in a couple of years.

But even if it is isn’t the solution to affordable and massive energy storage,, that will save the world, I believe that one of the teams of men and women in white coats, somewhere in the world will crack the problem.

 

May 2, 2019 Posted by | Energy Storage | , , , , | Leave a comment

More About Steamology Motion

In Grants To Support Low-Carbon Technology Demonstrators, I talked about a company called Steamology, who were given a grant by the Department for Transport to develop a method of converting hydrogen into energy.

The company is called Steamology Motion and in Issue 872 of Rail Magazine more details are given in an article, which is entitled DFT Hands Out £350,000 Each To Five Rail Green Schemes.

This is said in the article.

Steamology Motion, the final recipient, aims to create a new zero-emmissions power train for a Vivarail Class 230 train. The W2W system generates steam from compressed hydrogen and oxygen stored in tanks. The steam then drives a turbine to generate electricity.

The concept is aimed at being a ‘range extender’ able to charge onboard battery packs.

My mathematical modelling skills for this type of system have never been strong, but I’m sure that others will know how much hydrogen and oxygen are needed to charge a 200 kWh battery.

  • A quick search of the Internet reveals that small steam turbines could be available
  • I very much suspect, that as the system is a ‘range extender’, rather than a power unit to take the train hundreds of miles, that the physical size of the gas tanks will be smaller than those proposed by Alston for their hydrogen conversion of a Class 321 train.

I also don’t think that the DfT would have given £350,000 to the company, if the the physics and the mathematics weren’t credible.

Conclusion

If this technology is successful, I suspect it could have other applications.

February 11, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Joy Of Physics

On the One Show on BBC television, yesterday there was a report about a man called Ian Tansley, who has invented a vaccine fridge for use in places like Africa, where the electricity is not reliable.

This Wikipedia entry for Sure Chill Technology describes the technology and this report on the BBC, describes how the invention has been backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Physics to many is a dull subject at school, but to me, it’s the key to so many interesting inventions and ideas that will shape our lives in a better way.

October 24, 2017 Posted by | Health, World | , , , | Leave a comment

A Strange Fog

On Monday night, it was hot in the house and I was listening to the radio and typing up a few things for my blog.

The window was open for fresh air and as I often am, I was just wearing a pair of small black briefs for comfort, modesty and to keep cool.

Id been to the vigil by Tower Bridge and I’d had rather a nice ready meal from Marks and Spencer for supper.

I was also drinking heavily, but it was only endless mugs of tea!

So I laid down on the Chinese carpet on the floor and must have dosed off for half-an-hour.

When I awoke and stood up, I found that I couldn’t see very well.

I was worried at first, but after going into my bedroom to the toilet, I found I could see alright in the other room.

I then thought that the living room must be full of smoke or steam like you’d get if you left a saucepan of water on a lighted stove.

But the kettle and stove were cold, all taps in the house were switched off and there was no obvious source of the fog.

I then weighed myself, as I often do before I go to bed and found that I lost a kilo since Sunday night, despite eating well and drinking a lot.

And then it dawned what the fog was.

The temperature and humidity in the room had been such, that it had drawn the water through my skin and I was looking through a fog of my own perspiration.

I should say, that regularly, I lose a kilo overnight.

All very strange, but totally explained by the laws of physics and my extraordinary skin, which baffles medics, as if say they inject me or take blood, I don’t bleed afterwards and don’t need a plaster, despite being on Warfarin.

 

 

June 7, 2017 Posted by | Health | | Leave a comment