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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fusion engine antimatter

Space News is becoming hotter: NASA is going to use antimatter in space ships of the future.

Fusion reactions begin by antimatter particle beams may start to drive the ultra-high spacecraft sent on a long journey, by the middle of this century, the researchers said.

Ships from the fusion engine can reach Jupiter in 4 months, thus opening the way to the outer solar system, the human expeditions, according to a report by NASA in 2010

In order to make this technology available, scientists will have to overcome many obstacles - in particular those related to the receipt and storage of antimatter - but some experts believe that it may be ready by mid-century.

Power Fusion impresses

The fuel for such a ship with thermonuclear engines will probably consist of small pellets containing deuterium and tritium - heavy hydrogen isotopes, which contain one or two neutrons in its nucleus, respectively. (At the core of the ordinary hydrogen atom no neutron.)

Within each grain is the fuel will be surrounded by another substance, possibly uranium. Feed antiproton - proton antimatter equivalents having an electric charge of -1, and not one - will be sent to the pellets.

When antiprotons come into contact with uranium nuclei, they will annihilate, creating products of high decay which launches nuclear fusion reactions in the fuel.

Such reactions - eg nuclear fusion of deuterium and tritium, which leads to the formation of a single atom of helium-4 and a neutron - releasing enormous amounts of energy that can be used to make the ship move in several different directions.

"The energy released in the course of these reactions can be used for heating fuel or a pulse with a magnetic plasma confinement and magnetic nozzle," - said in a report in 2010 entitled "The Limits of modern technology: a revolutionary breakthrough in space exploration" which NASA released with the support of The Tauri Group and a number of experts.

The basic idea is this: in the course of the "Daedalus", a study conducted by the British Interplanetary Society in 1970. Were invited to use thermonuclear rocket engine for interstellar spacecraft? But then it was assumed that nuclear fusion, considered in the "Daedalus", must be initiated by electron beams rather than antiprotons.

Yet something still prevents us

Although fusion is running with antiproton beams, is a very tempting technology, yet scientists still have a lot of work to put those ideas into practice.

Perhaps the most difficult will be getting antiprotons - which can be created in particle accelerators - in sufficient quantities and storing them for a long time required to perform a long journey.

According to the report "The Limits of modern technology," the flight to Jupiter would need about 1.16 g of antiprotons. This, of course, is not a very scary figure, but must take into account that in the present production capacity can receive a billionth of a gram of the substance.

Still, the volume of produced antiprotons are escalating, so we can hope that the next major scientific breakthrough associated with space propulsion, will happen even before the 2060

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