A Car That Could Go 1,000,000 Miles Without Refueling

ThoriumSince the dawn of the Industrial Age, people have looked for the most efficient way to power machines big and small. If Connecticut-based Laser Power Systems’ research is correct, a new alternative could be on the horizon: The company believes it has found the panacea fuel for the 21st century, a heavy metal called thorium.

Without getting too deep into the jargon, let’s just say that thorium is a radioactive element currently used to breed nuclear fuel. It’s widely abundant and would make for a safe fuel source for vehicles, power stations and other devices, says Ward’s Automotive.

Thorium could be used as a heat source to boil water, which in turn could power a steam turbine that would make electricity — similar to the way we use coal, natural gas or uranium as a source for electricity today.

To get thorium hot enough, a laser would need to be directed at small block of the element. That would heat up the metal significantly, but not enough to cause a nuclear reaction.

Laser Power Systems believes it’s possible to miniaturize the laser, turbine engine and thorium pack so that it can fit into an automobile. Furthermore, since it takes only a small amount of thorium to power a car, you would theoretically never have to refuel. About 8 grams of thorium, encased in a three-inch-thick stainless-steel box, would be enough to power a car for a million miles and prevent passengers from the harm of radioactivity, the researchers say. 

Unlike a uranium fission-powered car — which was actually proposed by Ford with the Nucleon concept car — the thorium setup wouldn’t cause a nuclear reaction and would give off only negligible amounts of radiation.

If we could scale something like this, it could eliminate the world’s dependency on oil, the researchers noted.

So why aren’t we using thorium now? There are a couple of reasons. Although thorium is abundant, we haven’t made much effort in figuring out where large, easily extractable reserves are. Miniaturizing the laser and turbine system is still a ways off, too. Also, drivers’ habits would have to acclimate to the deficiencies of steam power. Steam takes time to build up, and it would take at least 30 seconds for the mechanism to generate electricity.

Plus, thorium is radioactive. Even though scientists say thorium isn’t particularly dangerous, politicians, citizens and companies might not want even an iota of risk with something that could, in theory, be transformed into a nuclear weapon. (You have to super-heat thorium to make weapons-grade nuclear material, something very hard to do.)

Laser Power Systems plans to put a thorium-powered car on the road within the next two years to demonstrate its theory. We can't wait to see it. 

U.S. Researcher Preparing Prototype Cars Powered by Heavy-Metal Thorium (Wards Auto, via The Truth About Cars)

Comments 

Amuro Ray

Design the vehicle so that Th can generate 1.21 GW of energy, add a flux capacitor...now we're talking, and I'll be more than welcome to "test" it in a shopping mall parking lot :)

Mike Carey

Sounds like a scam.

Without a nuclear reaction Thorium doesn't release heat. The laser is the only thing heating the Thorium so no net energy is created to power the car.

Thorium can be safely used in molten salt reactors (MSRs) to generate lots of cheap, clean nuclear power for electric cars. America demonstrated them at our nuclear labs in the 1950's, but they didn't make plutonium for weapons so the more dangerous pressurized water reactors (PWRs)were scaled up to be power plants here.

India and China are reviving the Thorium fuel cycle because they have lots of it left over from their rare earth metal mines. Do a search for LFTRs (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors) to learn more.

Mark

We'll see this type technology as soon as the oil companies can divest themselves of the billions of dollars investment in big oil which is probably never. Which goes to say they'll snuff out this research like they've done in years past with any new technology that threatens their industry.

that's more likely to happen...there have been cheaper alternatives but what can it do against this capitalists?

N. Whitbeck

And what powers the laser?

Max Reid

This should be applied in first in ships since they consume lot of energy and also are out in the oceans.

There are many Nuclear and LNG powered ships.

If it works fine, then apply it in Aeroplanes and then Trains, Trucks & Cars in that order.

We'll see this type technology as soon as the oil companies can divest themselves of the billions of dollars investment in big oil which is probably never. Which goes to say they'll snuff out this research like they've done in years past with any new technology that threatens their industry.

Thorium can be safely used in molten salt reactors (MSRs) to generate lots of cheap, clean nuclear power for electric cars. America demonstrated them at our nuclear labs in the 1950's, but they didn't make plutonium for weapons so the more dangerous pressurized water reactors (PWRs)were scaled up to be power plants here.

India and China are reviving the Thorium fuel cycle because they have lots of it left over from their rare earth metal mines. Do a search for LFTRs (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors) to learn more.

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