27 January 2006

The Quest for More Energy--here and on the moon

JW Bats at Tech Future Blog, has a great post about a new nano-photoelectric technology. Here is the original story and the source for the graphic.

The Speculist has a great story about the heating fusion race. China, Russia, and the US are in a neck and neck race to the moon, to retrieve the fusion fuel, Helium3. Who will be the first to harness the energy of the future, and possibly control the cis-lunar environment?

Peak oil debunked also has a good two part series on the race to mine the moon, and to industrialise outer space.
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Blogger Stephen Gordon said...

Thanks for the link to The Speculist Al!

Friday, 27 January, 2006  
Blogger al fin said...

You are most welcome.

Friday, 27 January, 2006  
Blogger Quantoken said...

The lunar Helium 3 idea is a totally crackpot idea.

Let's first not not look at the technological difficulty, just look at the availability issue. According to this source:

1.There are one million tons of He3 on the top lunar soil, no deeper than a few feet.

2.These one million tons of He3 can provide the U.S. for a one thousand years of electricity.

The number sounds big but they actually are NOT quite that big. The U.S. only consumes 1/4 of the world's total electricity, or maybe less. So to provide the whole world with electricity, the one million ton lunar He3 is only good for 250 years, not 1000 years.

Now, the world's electricity consumption is only 1/6 of total energy consumption. So to provide the world with all energy supply, not just electricity, you need to further divide the number by 6. Which results in 43 years of supply.

Only 43 years of energy supply, even if you mine every little bit of He3 on the moon 100%. That doesn't look like an encouraging solution.

Now, how do you mine the He3 from the moon? Just cook the lunar soil to 700C and it will come out. Sounds easy? But's it's easier said than done. The He3 is uniformly distributed on the whole surface of the moon, to a depth of one meter. The moon is a pretty big place. Let's calculate how much lunar soil you need to dig up and cook:

The moon's radius is 1738,000 meters. So its surface area is 4*PI*1738000^2 = 3.8x10^13 M^2. Multiply by one meter depth, that's a volume of 3.8x10^13 M^2, at about 5 kilogram mass per cubic meter, that's a total mass of 1.9x10^17 kilogram.

You are talking about cooking 190 trillion tons of lunar soil to 700C, in order to extract just one million ton of He3. The concentration of He3 is only 5 parts per billion!!! Each ton of lunar soil cooked will yield just 5 miligram of He3.

Where do you get all the energy to cook 190 trillian tons of lunar soil to 700C temperature? The extracted He3, even if all their energy is released, is far from being enough to even cook the soil from which they were extracted.

The whole history of humanity has never cooked anything remotely approaching 170 trillion tons, to any temperature remotely close to 700C. All the hot water for bath/shower humen ever cooked (which is to no more than 50C), from the Roman era to today, is about one trillion ton of hot water.

It's a complete ridiculous idea to believe that extracting He3 from lunar surface could be of any usage in terms of energy.


Tuesday, 31 January, 2006  
Blogger al fin said...

Thanks for commenting, quantoken.

Helium-3 has been accumulating in the lunar soil for billions of years, and constantly moved around by meteoric impacts. It is still accumulating and will continue to do so for another few billion years. Anyone who says he knows how much He-3 is on the moon is certainly wrong. You have to go there and do a thorough survey to find out.

Cooking the soil is no problem, given the intensity of sunlight during the long lunar days. Solar concentrating furnaces can do the job nicely. Robotic excavating, conveying, and processing machinery--also solar energised--will keep the ovens well supplied.

You know, most people of any worth at all have been labeled crackpots by others who did not know any better. I think it may be too early to put labels on this particular idea.

Tuesday, 31 January, 2006  

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