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The Jetsons and flying cars

Posted by: GeraldineKent

Tagged in: Untagged 


"The price of oil is on an upward spiral due to increasing demand and diminishing supplies. Short of finding vast new untapped reserves buried somewhere under out feet, we need to find an alternative sooner rather than later."


However, if there was a good chance of finding hidden resources, the oil industry is already responsible for the ruin of so many peoples' lives as a result of their excavaions and pollution... Would more oil resources actually be a positive turn for our society's future? Not to mention all the wars that are tearing the world apart, just so that the upper class can fill up their Hummer H1's with many litres of petrol.

"Unless you have a lot of money to spend on an electric vehicle, everyone who drives a car today relies on oil for the gasoline that keeps it running. Although replacing the petrol engine with a battery and electric motor seems to be where we are heading, it only really shifts the problem to the power stations rather than the fuel pumps."

So instead of looking for beneficial ways to re-structure society's transport system towards one that functions for the good of the environment, the plans of "going green" simply continue to perpetuate the cycle of pollution. 

But then, just as it begins to look like there's very little hope...

"There may be another way to power our cars, however, and it would mean never having to refuel you car–be it with gasoline or an electric charge.

Charles Stevens is an inventor and CEO of Laser Power Systems. His idea is to replace the gasoline engine with an electricity generator that doesn’t require a battery. He is proposing the use of the rare earth mineral thorium in conjunction with a laser and mini turbines that easily produce enough electricity to power a vehicle.

Thorium is abundant and radioactive, but much safer to use than an element such as uranium. When thorium is heated it becomes extremely hot and causes heat surges allowing it to be coupled with mini turbines producing steam that can then be used to generate electricity. It also helps that it has a very large liquid range between melting and boiling point.

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.

Stevens has worked out you’d require a 227kg, 250MW thorium engine in order to power a typical road car. Within that system 1 gram of thorium produces the equivalent of 7,500 gallons of gasoline. So if you fit the Thorium engine with 8 grams of Thorium, it will run the vehicle for its entire lifetime without needing to be refueled while all the time not producing any emissions. The engine lasts so long in fact, that it could be taken from one vehicle and used in another as and when they wear out."

Ok, so when I read this all I could think about was how when I was younger I used to watch "The Jetsons" on Cartoon Network. And their flying cars up there in their little space world seemed like the coolest thing in the world, but also something that would never be possible. But thinking about thorium and the ability to power my car for the rest of my life is about as close as we can get to flying cars for now!

As with everything in life though, there are some downsides to this plan... "The issues to overcome are the radioactivity and the mining of thorium to make this engine possible. Stevens says the radioactivity can easily be contained with aluminium foil. As for the mining, the reserves are there, with 440,000 tons alone in the U.S., we just need the mining facilities to extract it in large enough quantities. With the potential benefits that is sure to happen." But once again, this need for mining is what tears peoples' lives apart when they are forced to re-locate by companies looking to make a profit off their land, the place they call 'home'.

This idea has huge potential to save the future from all the grief that comes with the oil production industry. But it is going to take time and years of troubleshooting before we can expect to begin making this idea a reality. And, as always, who is going to be able to afford this thorium? Will poeple who are living below the poverty line be able to afford a car if they're saving so much money on petrol? Let's hope so...


Comments (4)Add Comment
written by the_merchant, August 15, 2011
The idea sounds very interesting, but like you said, there are some problems to overcome. Even though the radioactivity can be contained, what happens when there is an accident? Each car could be a small scale nuclear event waiting to happen. You also mentioned that Thorium is rare, so despite it being used sparingly, it still isn't sustainable if it indeed ends up being used by a billion (or more) people around the world. The problem is that we've always been relying on non-renewable energy sources. So until a way to harness solar power cheaply and efficiently is found, I think we're kind of stuck.
written by GeraldineKent, August 16, 2011
Thank you for your input. I completely agree with you, there needs to be a plan that harnesses renewable energy. It's the only way we can hope to move forward in terms of sustainability and development.
written by Laurenvdv, August 16, 2011
Sounds like an amazing idea. Even though there's some obstacles, why not for the future? Some sacrifices are needed to move forward. Like you said, there's always downsides to bright ideas. In the long run, it will help the environment.
written by DBS, August 18, 2011
Sounds like a good idea. Not sure the opec natins would like it though

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