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Stop Building Bombs and Start Building Starships | Guest Blog, Scientific American Blog Network

…In addition to funding NASA, we can make fusion energy research a top national priority. Fusion power – an unparalleled energy source that generates electricity by effectively creating a miniature star – has eluded scientists for decades, but researchers now believe that successful fusion is within mankind’s grasp…

via Stop Building Bombs and Start Building Starships | Guest Blog, Scientific American Blog Network.

It might be feasible to design nuclear fusion reactors for space that would use focused cosmic rays (high energy atoms) as a fuel source. To focus cosmic rays you would need large electromagnets acting like a lens for high energy protons and helium nuclei moving in a given direction within a given range of energies. A cosmic ray fusion reactor would have a number of these electromagnet lenses focusing cosmic rays from multiple directions.

By designing a fusion chamber where these streams of high energy protons are made to collide, it might be possible to sustain fusion reactions in space. The particles for the reaction are from the cosmic rays themselves, while the speed of the atoms is used as the energy source to start the fusion reaction. When the particles are made to collide, the sudden change in velocity and the proximity of the the other atoms in the fusion chamber provides the conditions for the fusion reaction to occur.

These kind of space-based fusion reactors using cosmic rays as a fuel source could be self sustaining. It depends on the size of the electromagnets needed to focus enough cosmic rays with the right energies in the fusion chamber. The flux of cosmic rays in space can vary quite a bit as well.

Being able to demonstrate a space-based fusion reactor which used cosmic rays as its fuel source would be the moment when building living quarters in space would be feasible, safe and realistic.

Posted in Space.

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