If your car was powered by thorium, you would never need to refuel it. The vehicle would burn out long before the chemical did. The thorium would last so long, in fact, it would probably outlive you.
That’s why a company called Laser Power Systems has created a concept for a thorium-powered car engine. The element is radioactive, and the team uses bits of it to build a laserbeam that heats water, produces steam, and powers an energy-producing turbine.
Thorium is one of the most dense materials on the planet. A small sample of it packs 20 million times more energy than a similarly-sized sample of coal, making it an ideal energy source.
The thing is, Dr. Charles Stevens, the CEO of Laser Power Systems, told Mashable that thorium engines won’t be in cars anytime soon.
“Cars are not our primary interest,” Stevens said. ”The automakers don’t want to buy them.”
He said too much of the automobile industry is focused on making money off of gas engines, and it will take at least a couple decades for thorium technology to be used enough in other industries that vehicle manufacturers will begin to consider revamping the way they think about engines. We’re building this to power the rest of the world,” Stevens said. He believes a thorium turbine about the size of an air conditioning unit could more provide cheap power for whole restaurants, hotels, office buildings, even small towns in areas of the world without electricity. At some point, thorium could power individual homes.
Stevens understands that people may be wary of Thorium because it is radioactive — but any such worry would be unfounded.
“The radiation that we develop off of one of these things can be shielded by a single sheet off of aluminum foil,” Stevens said. ”You will get more radiation from one of those dental X-rays than this.”
Electric cars are about to be made to look like donkeys. Hydrogen cars are about to be made to feel about as advanced as a herd of goats. Forget what you know, because cars that can run for 100 years without refuelling could be just around the corner.
There’s a new propulsion technology on the horizon that uses an incredibly dense element called thorium. It’s so dense that even the smallest grain of it has the potential to create more heat than a dozen clones of Eva Mendes.
And okay, we’re well aware that nobody apart from Rolls-Royce and maybe Bentley could make a car that could last for 100 years, but it’s a nice round number and it’s what’s on the table.
An American company called Laser Power Systems is working on using thorium to generate enough energy to create a laser, which heats water and creates steam that can ultimately provide motion. Just eight grams of thorium is enough to power a car for a century, and while it’s in the early stages it’s genuinely viable.
The current prototype ‘engine’ is said to weigh about 225kg, making it comparable with internal combustion motors. The real eye-opener is that one gram of thorium is said to contain more energy than 28,000 litres of unleaded.
That’s the equivalent of 509 full fill-ups of a 55-litre petrol tank, and when the average European Joe will only fill his tank about 50 times over three years, that makes thorium a huge deal. With low mileage a thorium car could run for 10 decades.
What’s more, there’s much less environmental risk than with nuclear power. At worst thorium power produces 10 times less long-lived radiation than typical nuclear fission. At best, we’re talking 10,000 times less. Bit of a no-brainer, really, especially if the government ends up deciding to bury it at the bottom of your garden.
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