Acta Astronautica – Future interstellar rockets may use laser-induced annihilation reactions for relativistic drive
Until now, no technology was known that would be able to give rocket exhaust at relativistic speed and a high enough momentum for relativistic travel. Here, a useful method for relativistic interstellar propulsion is described for the first time. This method gives exhaust at relativistic speeds and is a factor of at least one hundred better than normal fusion due to its increased energy output from the annihilation-like meson formation processes. It uses ordinary hydrogen as fuel so return travel is possible after refueling almost anywhere in space.
The nuclear processes give relativistic particles (kaons, pions and muons) by laser-induced annihilation-like processes in ultra-dense hydrogen H(0). The kinetic energy of the mesons is 1300 times larger than the energy of the laser pulse. This method is superior to the laser-sail method by several orders of magnitude and is suitable for large spaceships.
Researchers are working on an annihilation-like method. It is well studied in the laboratory and gives initially fast kaons and pions from protons or deuterons by annihilation-like processes. They use the phrase annihilation-like since the practical evidence and use is more important for its characterization than the claim inherent in the strict nomenclature without the -like. The necessary antimatter used is concluded to be formed by oscillations of the quasi-neutrons initially formed in the ultra-dense hydrogen by laser-induced processes from spin state s = 2 to s = 1. Considerable progress in the understanding of these complex nuclear processes has been made already. Thus, a practical solution exists for the annihilation rocket drive, ejecting relativistic massive particles and not only photons.
We can compare this laser-based method with other possible propulsion using lasers.
Laser pushed solar sails have been the main known method for potential travel at significant fractions of light speed. Laser-sails have momentum transfer from photons reflecting off the sails. The lasers used for the annihilation-drive described here have pulse energy of less than half of joule. This means that the total impulse per laser shot with a million trillion photons is of the order of one billionth of joule. Laser-ablation methods can probably not give higher impulse than the laser pulse, since the velocities of the sputtered particles are caused by the photon impact.
In the annihilation method described here, each laser pulse gives of the order of 10 trillion mesons with relativistic velocity. This gives an impulse which is up to 3000 times larger than the photon impulse. Thus, this annihilation-like method is far superior over other laser-based space propulsion methods.
Fusion processes have been the main focus of study for potential future interstellar rockets. However, the energy given to the particles ejected by a fusion process is rather small, in the first step in D + D fusion only around 3 MeV u−1. This corresponds to only 0.08 c.
Even with T + D fusion, the highest energy is only 14 MeV u−1, thus only 0.17 c. This is the maximum velocity that can be expected from nuclear fusion using hydrogen isotopes. This indicates a final velocity from D + D fusion of 55 million meters per second or close to 0.2 c without including any relativistic effects which will give slightly lower velocity. However, just a small part of the total D mass is converted to fast particles moving in the wanted exhaust direction, so far from 90% of the mass is exhausted as wanted. If T + D fusion is used, the final velocity becomes 120 million meters per second (0.4 c).
Nuclear fusion using the D + D or T + D reactions cannot give relativistic rockets (50+% of light speed).
A laser target with ultra-dense hydrogen used in this case is of the form fully described in a recent patent. A reasonable estimate is that 50% of the total initial mass of the protons is lost to neutrinos and photons. Some of the momentum of the photons may however also be useful for the rocket drive. Thus, it is estimated that 50% of the proton mass is converted to useful kinetic energy by such a rocket drive. The total energy from these nuclear processes is roughly a factor of hundred higher than from fusion, so the hydrogen fuel lasts much longer than if fusion was used for the drive. Also, ordinary hydrogen can be used as fuel for the annihilation process, which would not be possible if fusion was the main drive process used.
The energy efficiency is more than a factor of 1000. Over 1000 times more kinetic energy is given to the mesons formed relative to the energy in the laser pulse. Experimental reactors which produce relativistic particles from annihilation are operating in Sweden, Norway and Iceland and a propulsion system for relativistic drive should be feasible within a decade.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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47 thoughts on “Laser Induced Annihilation Reactions Would be a Superior Space Drive”
Holmlid rebuttal to retraction:
This is why I’ve always been partial to the idea of a RAIR (Ram Augmented Interstellar Rocket), It takes the “six impossible things before breakfast” that you’d need to get a working Bussard ramjet, namely how to collect the hydrogen and fuse it while it is passing through your engine at fractional c, and makes it into one semi-impossible thing- how to collect the hydrogen without losing more in drag than you gain in thrust. Of course this does then bring in the extra problem of where the energy will come from since you would then be using what you collect as pure reaction mass rather than reaction mass and fuel, as well as issues like how you transfer the energy to the collected hydrogen. That said, these issues seem significantly more tractable than the ones facing a full up Bussard ramjet and the prospect of a higher cruising velocity seems worth the effort. In addition, for the deceleration phase you can then shift to using a high drag configuration sail since you are *trying* to slow down and the drag becomes a feature, rather than a bug.
That would have to be quite the beam to seed the path with enough fuel, and out to a considerable distance. A different kind of magic tech.
If you’re going for a particle beam, why not aim it at an ablative pusher plate? You get momentum exchange from the particles hitting the plate, and if you use the right kind of magic, you might get it to fuse as well.
The problem is, protons are just really hard to fuse.
Now, what I think you might be able to do, is use a particle beam device to seed a lane in space with suitable fuel. D or DT. Then the ramjet is launched and accelerates to cruising speed down the prepared lane. This would seriously simplify things, at the expense of the ramjet not being free-flying, but stuck following a specific path.
Upon further reading and thought, you’re probably right about the conditions. pN14 isn’t just slow, it’s the slowest step. So much so that even 13N has time to fully decay with its 10 min half-life, despite pN13 being faster than pN14. And all that is despite a very dense (far exceeding Earth solids!), probably hydrogen-dominated plasma, where presumably each heavy nucleus encounters multiple protons by the time it decays.
One small correction: HCNO requires nova conditions, not supernova. But that’s still a big problem.
For a closed-cycle CNO plant, your description is pretty good. For an open-cycle and esp pulsed design, you won’t even get He. You just exhaust whatever intermediate product you get (likey 15O). The residence time can be much shorter, but yes, the shorter it is, the less of the H will actually fuse. That may be ok, since lighter exhaust gives higher Isp, and this naturally duplicates your dual H streams, without actually splitting the H.
With a short residence pulsed design, you can afford more extreme conditions, with less magic tech.
From your “slowing the streams”, I guess you’re still thinking of a ramjet, so I’ll say again: an open cycle is problematic for a ramjet, because it needs the secondary fuel input, which you won’t find in free space. It may be possible to separate and recycle some of the CNO from the exhaust, but it adds complexity. A closed cycle should be ok for a ramjet, but has those other technical difficulties as you point out.
“There’s a lot of hydrogen in a star”
There’s a lot of star for the hydrogen to be in. The size of the star only matters because it effects the conditions within the star, how long the hydrogen takes to fuse isn’t a function of the amount of hydrogen, it’s a function of the conditions. Under normal stellar conditions it takes billions of years for the hydrogen to significantly fuse, your average compost heap puts out more power per kg than a star. Stars only impress people as powerful because they’ve got a lot of that barely ticking over fuel per unit area.
So, if i’m following you, you’d divide the incoming hydrogen into two streams: One is minimally slowed, and represents the reaction mass; It’s not fused, it’s accelerated using the output of the fusion plant.
The other stream gets brought to a halt relative to the ship, and is run through the fusion cycle to produce power, and then the helium is dumped, and the catalytic elements recycled.
This does solve part of the problem, you can actually afford a long residence time. But the longer the residence time, the larger your inventory of fuel in the reactor has to be, to keep up with the flows, and I will maintain that, outside of utterly outrageous conditions that require “magic” tech to maintain, that residence time is measured in years, not seconds, for the CNO cycle. The problem is proton capture by N is a very slow step, outside of the hot CNO cycle, which, yes, requires supernova conditions.
I want to believe BLP. I really, REALLY want to. I’ve seen some of their videos and read some of the literature. For what it’s worth. I’ve also followed Andrea Rossi and the E-Cat forever, too, and I also want that to be real (which, perhaps, that’s already generating heat, as is Brillouin Energy, but that’s another conversation).
I want to believe BLP, but until I see a product come to market (which, don’t get me wrong, that takes a long time and is VERY difficult to do), I can’t believe in the hydrino thing. And, even if they’re real, it’s hard for me to believe they can be harnessed.
> residence time
That’s assuming you start from C, and want to close the cycle. Neither is required. The fundamental components of CNO are proton capture reactions, which aren’t directly affected by half-lives.
> can’t op as pass-through
With a closed cycle, you won’t be ejecting the CNO anyway. You want to keep it as a catalyst. So you’ll be passing unreacted H around the fusion core, and ejecting only the heated H.
If you want to eject the CNO plasma, there’s no point closing the cycle. Just go with pure p capture.
> reaction conditions. goes to completion over cosmological t.
I think you’re confusing things (though I may be wrong). “Goes to completion” means fuse all the H. There’s a lot to fuse in a star, so of course it takes long. But each heavy nucleus completes many CNO cycles. Each cycle can complete in as little as 12 min – even as little as 3, if it skips the 13N decay and goes via 14O -> 14N (70s half-life instead of 10min).
But again, you don’t need to close the cycle to fuse as much H as possible – as long as you have enough CNO to keep the p captures going. The cross sections for p capture between 1 and 10 MeV temp are comparable to pB11 (~2-10 times lower). Don’t know at higher temp.
The low-hanging fruit is pulsed open cycle. Compress and heat with laser pulses, pN14 capture only, and out the nozzle. Don’t bother with the rest of the cycle. Don’t bother holding it. Can’t use for ramjets, but should work with simple ISRU refueling inside the Sol sys.
There are a couple problems here.
The first is residence time. Your incoming fuel has to pass through a step that is only 50% complete in 10 minutes. So you need it to reside in the reactor for a half hour or so if you want to react most of the fuel. This means you can’t operate as a pass-through system, you have to bring the fuel to a dead stop relative to the ship. Then use the energy produced to accelerate it back up to faster than your ship’s speed through the interstellar medium. Both these steps are inherently lossy, no getting around it. TOO lossy.
The second is reaction conditions. Even under typical stellar interior conditions, the CNO reaction only goes to completion over cosmological periods of time. To go to completion in a half hour you need conditions comparable to those found in a supernova. If you want to compromise on the density, you need to increase the temperature even higher.
So, you collect interstellar gas, compress it to the temperature and density of a supernova, hold it for a half hour minimum, and then run it out through a rocket nozzle. Say, how much of the heat is it going to radiate away in that half hour, when thermal radiation is T^4? So your reactor has be be perfectly reflective to gamma rays, in addition to being able to hold back pressures in the billions of tons per square mm.
Yeah, that’s “magic” technology. I can’t say that it actually violates any obvious physical law, but I don’t see any non-magical way to do it.
Btw, the long half-lives don’t actually stop you from increasing the reaction rate. They just affect the equilibrium of isotopes that you’ll end up with. If I’m not mistaken, the only things that determine the reaction rate are the pressure, temperature, and confinement time (and the cross sections, which are a function of these parameters).
For example, starting from 12C, you’ll get initially 13N (half-life 10 min) and then 14O (half-life 70 sec). 14O can’t react further, because 15F decays back to 14O with a half-life of 1e-21 sec.
So you’ll get a gradual build-up of these two isotopes. But the more they collect, the faster their decay rate becomes, since decay is exponential. After a few minutes, the decay rate will match the proton capture rate, and you’ll reach an equilibrium.
If you change the reaction rate, you just shift the equilibrium.
They’re still one of the in contention candidates for dark matter, as of the last I heard.
I do believe the universe has some nifty tricks neatly hidden on plain view, visible only when we look at them in the right way and asking the right questions.
But we will eventually find them.
I say this because the impossibility of the past is the normal of today. It has already happened.
Of course, there is no warranty this will be the case, just a hunch.
I kind of remember that article, but still …
I kind of thought that strange quarkonium required all sorts of other exotics to attain stability. But who knows. Dark matter solution at same time!
Bring it on.
⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅
This is a fair candidate for such a lucky find:
Relatively easy in the sense that it’s easier to increase temperature than the other fusion parameters. Esp in a pulsed setting. I agree that all fusion is hard, though.
DT output is less sensitive to temperature, AFAIK.
I’ve collected and read over 500 hardback first-editions of SciFi lit. Sily hobby, but to a much younger mind, good reads. Thing is, the closest-to-reality SciFi stories are the fodder that ‘fed me’ best.
There may be dozens, but two in particular have held my interest: Mars — (Red, Green, Blue and 2312) // K. S. Robinson. The story telling isn’t all that compelling, but the prospect of a human-powered transformation of our neighbor planet into something worth living on, well … that’s big. 2312 is more of a space opera, but it posits whizzing around the Solar System with NO MAGIC. Straight physics. Well played out, I might add.
The other is Rendezvous with Rama // A. C. Clarke. Again, just about no magic, just physics. Rather remarkable, actually. Interstellar. It sets aside known physics only once: to create an astounding acceleration force by a means undescribed, unspoken. Yet, within the constraints of physics, such an almost-unobtainium drive is NOT outside of the possible.
Personally, I’m just hoping not for these little whiffs of physics magic (per article) to scale by 15 to 20 orders of magnitude (as they cannot), but rather I hold hope for Big Physics to find some curiously overlooked effect that has an unappreciated uncommon twist, allowing for Clarke’s invisible hand drives. Every bit of Rama’s physics otherwise is completely mathematically sound. As is Robinson’s.
⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅
Relatively easy in the context of us having trouble reaching breakeven with D-T fusion?
No, relatively easy if you’re assuming near magical technology, where your ramjet can put the incoming interstellar gases through conditions that normally obtain only during a supernova.
Re CNO, I’m guessing you’re looking at the “cold” CNO-I cycle? I think the low hanging fruit for CNO-like fusion rockets is more likely pulsed proton capture reactions where the CNO cycle isn’t closed. Of these, pN14 is likely the best choice (only slightly less energetic than pC13, and N14 is easier to obtain than C13).
The resulting O nucleus is still charged, so can be magnetically deflected as exhaust. The catch is that the nitrogen becomes expendable, and needs its own refueling, so Bussard is out. But refueling at Titan or various icy bodies is doable.
At higher energies and reaction rates you’d be approaching something more similar to Hot-CNO. Basically a chain of proton captures producing ever heavier nuclei, until you reach something with a short half-life.
Regardless, the appeal of CNO, apart from being able to fuse regular hydrogen in a mostly aneutronic fashion, is that its energy output is very sensitive to the temperature. So should be relatively easy to increase the Q factor.
I hear that more sophisticated calculations showed that maybe it could work, with the right inlet geometry, instead of a simple current loop.
The real problem is that the interstellar gas is lousy fusion fuel: First, it’s mostly not ionized, so doesn’t care about your magnetic scoop. Second, it’s mostly hydrogen, not deuterium, and so fiendishly hard to fuse.
And you can’t accelerate the CNO cycle without GoatGuy’s magic technology, because a couple of the steps are nuclear decays with fairly long fixed half lives.
You can’t fuel your starship from interstellar gas because it isn’t really fuel, is the bottom line.
The other interstellar drive options like various propellantless proposals and warp drives are just as speculative. Even solar sails pushed by multi-GW lasers require several levels of (almost?) unobtanium.
When it comes to interstaller travel at anything faster than century+ transit times, we have no choice but to grasp at straws. That’s all we have right now. The only way to make any of this less speculative is to keep researching it.
On some days I think it would be nice if we had 100% mass-energy conversion to power relativistic rockets. Or space warps. Or any of that magic technology that drives space opera.
On other days I think that, while it’s a bit frustrating having to conquer the universe within the laws of physics, it’s a more interesting challenge. We’ve got to win the game without the cheat codes.
And the truth is, basically all those “magic” technologies are answers to the Fermi Paradox, (100% mass energy conversion = people building planet crackers in their garages.) so maybe it’s just as well.
An engineering firm in the Netherlands is working upon a first product based on Lief Holmlid’s legacy. A study for compact neutron source is published here.
Acta Astronautica is the journal for such stuff. Look up past issues for more of the bright bold future you now live in, and compare.
Yeah, this seems more like an area of exotic matter. If that’s the case, if we can produce exotic matter like this, we should be using it to build an experimental drive based on Alcubierre’s theories. Give that exotic matter to Harold White and see what he can do with it. If you’re going to go for something, go for the gold. I say this in half jest, of course, since I’ve seen nothing so far to convince me that a stable form of exotic material like what’s described here, exists.
I’d rather have the U.S. Navy’s patterned high frequency gravitational wave generator. In the name of being so, utterly, completely realistic. ^_~
Curiously, this probably wouldn’t violate CoE or CoM, if the fuel source (the supposedly hyper-dense hydrogen) and the reaction itself are real and exist.
Annihilation of matter/anti-matter doesn’t violate them, and as per the descriptions, this hypothetical reaction would be similar in energy and results to a matter/anti-matter annihilation reaction.
You’d lose hydrogen nuclei and mass in exchange for the photons, mesons, etc. as per e=mc2.
The problem is the existence of the fuel source and the reaction. Are they real and replicable by others or not?
The author Leif Holmlid just had an article retracted “Mesons from Laser-Induced Processes in Ultra-Dense Hydrogen H(0)”: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6386439/
This somehow manages to be WORSE than the typical ham&eggs fusion drive story.
if we had a magic genie that could magically produce anything we wanted, at no expense, then we could get her to magically make some ham, and some eggs, and then we could cook ham and eggs.
They start by postulating a perfect marvellous free source of unlimited energy, and then spend their time explaining one minor (though fun) application for it.
Free unlimited energy. You don’t need to say anything more than that. You certainly don’t need to start justifying one particular application and calculate why it would be better than a more mundane (though still SF at this point) approach.
The problem of Bussard Ramjets is that, in later calculations, it was found that the drag of the hydrogen scoop would negate any gains you get from using the collected space hydrogen as fuel, even if it’s for a fusion rocket.
That’s because the hydrogen scoop would have to be of truly humongous proportions, causing more drag than the acceleration you can get from the collected hydrogen from that scoop size.
BrLP has been doing bulk calorimetry for over a year now with increasing quantities of water, most recently with multiple fills of several hundred liters over the course of 24 hours brought to near boiling.
As for the elusive hydrino-in-a-bottle, ask Mills how much BrLP would charge for an analytically adequate mass this stuff:
Bussard Ramjet in theory is just fusion and can achieve much higher relativistic speeds than any matter – anti-mtter reaction.
I’m more concerned about the falsifiability of their other claims (…)
May be you’d want to write ’em a letter an order a milliliter of the hydrino gas? Oh, wait, it cannot be contained, being degenerate matter. Inconvenient, that.
Or maybe order up a demonstration of the HyperSolar sun-cell. And measure optical flux output with your own well calibrated resistance-loaded photocell and bi-metallic temperature sensor!
Oh wait, the experiments aren’t set up for that. Inconvenient.
But, were you to show a balance sheet of ten million plus, I bet you would be wined and dined, shown all sorts of amazing secret squirrel videos, and gently-but-firmly asked to make a contribution to Mankind’s Future.
Let’s just say, I’d not be surprised in the least.
⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅
Oh, these days, I’m convinced that most ‘speculative research‘ is a combination of ordinary word-salad also-ran napkin mathematics and a whole truckload of chutzpah. Cheeky chutzpah. Bald-faced, smiling and pölïtically sincere bbb-bb-b-bûllsnot.
My Physics “chops” aren’t what they used to be, but just about nothing they propose actually survives the sniff test. Ultradense hydrogen has been alluded to, and ‘shown’ for nanoseconds under exotic conditions. And shown to be entirely unstable to pressure release. As well, any time I read about unobtanium-level lasers beating up whiffs of impossabilium, I kick back and ask, … so, where does that power come from, mmmm?
That’s the problem here, actually. The amounts of energy to be harnessed substantially exceed those contained in the most potent fusion fuels. Like by a minimum of 5×. Combine that with power-to-thrust utilizations approaching 100%, and magic-wand-waving-to-solve-the-actual-kinetics issues, and well ….
Not worth arguing.
⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅
It does (laser-asssisted). Either way, too … either pure “photon sail” or hybrid “photons-make-electricity-which-accelerates whiffs of exhaust”. Or Brett Belmore’s approach, to use photonic ‘pure sail’ acceleration to “beam mass” at the receding spacecraft.
Since there would be plenty of ‘leakage’ of the acceleration beam around each little whiff of sailcloth, the receding spacecraft would have a guide beam onto which to ‘lock’. The incoming bits of sailcloth would most likely remain on that beam.
Or, at the very worst, the modulation of the beam could transfer a few bits-per-second of data telling where and when the bit-of-sail would arrive, and on what vector.
That hybrid approach has all the hallmarks of being optimal: utilizes the masses quite effectively; doesn’t burden the receding (or incoming!) probe with gaining-or-losing mass itself. Transfers substantially more momentum than a big ol’ sail could, as well. Remains ‘coherent’ over its traversal path.
⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅
If the hyperdense hydrogen thing proves to be real, it won’t surprise me if Holmlid’s team and Randell Mills are really seeing the same phenomenon.
Both use a metallic catalyst with hydrogen gas, one applies lasers and the other electrical discharges, and both say to get a strongly exothermic and light generating reaction.
But I’d wager on Holmlid’s team to be the ones identifying what’s really going on.
Hydrinos are real
It seems they use theoretical 100% efficient fusion rockets as comparison and to convey the idea that fusion won’t allow truly relativistic rockets, even if they were 100% efficient.
I’m more concerned about the falsifiability of their other claims (e.g the existence of hyper-dense hydrogen). Those really need to be replicated by others, before even considering it as a possibility for rocketry of for anything else.
I wish there were magic physics.
OR perhaps that authors just cite magic, openly.
D-D fusion, with 4 MeV of daughter product kinetic energy, mean 12,000,000 m/s speed, to get to 25% of ‘c’, requires no less than 10 kg of 100% efficient D-D fusion per kg of payload. Actually, somewhat more.
Δv = Isp G₀ ln( Mi / Mo );
Isp = ( 25% of c ) / ( G₀ ln( Mi / Mo ) )
Isp = 75,000,000 / ( 9.81 × 4 );
Isp = 1,900,000 or ( × 9.81 = 18,750,000 m/s)
This is greater than the 100% captured speed of the fusion byproducts. Sadly. One might construe a ‘ship’ of greater initial Mi mass, or of much less Mo ending mass. Still … the energies involved to get to 25% of ‘c’, which is barely relativistic, are enormous.
Just … say … it requires magic.
Then we’ll not debate it.
⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅
Indeed. Believe in the scientific method, peer reviews and independent replication.
Don’t, don’t, don’t believe the hype!
Rydberg matter is almost the exact opposite of what they’re describing, in terms of density.
They know the baffle-gab, that’s for sure.
I’m not competent to determine the value of this system over others. What does seem to be a recurring theme, and confirmed by a reply to one of my posts, is that laser assisted spacecraft propulsion seems to offer a lot of possibilities over single source propulsion systems.
Funnily Rydberg matter does exist, verified by experiments, just not in the forms they describe. They describe a material that would be compressed beyond anything that should be possible outside a stellar core.
The supposed H0/D0 material they claim to be able to produce has a density >100 kg per cm3(!).
And funnily too, they also say this is superconducting at room temp, superfluid and stable, and believe it can be dark matter, by only reacting weakly with light in very high frequency regimes (mostly gamma rays).
Sounds like hydrinos to me too. The difference is that they say to produce it first in minute amounts, then have it ignite in nuclear reactions with a laser of specific frequency, supposedly stripping it of its electrons an causing some annihilation reaction (this ain’t fusion).
This rings my skepticism alarms like crazy, but these guys aren’t Roger Shawyer or other regular loony in a garage. They know their craft and how to write papers.
This paper got some attention on social networks recently. Not all positive, I might add.
And with reason. There is no way to have rockets approach relativistic speeds other than matter/antimatter annihilation. Neither Orion nor fusion will do.
Orion is the simplest option but it won’t really take you to any big fraction of c.
And fusion rockets, as Holmlid remarks, won’t cut it beyond some small fractions of c either, and this considering huge advances that produce aneutronic fusion.
Matter/antimatter rockets are a just a dream right now, with the ability of producing and storing antimatter being the real deal breakers.
And now Holmlid et al come and claim they have a reactor that produces particles and energy in the same power regime as matter/antimatter annihilation, by first producing a special form of hyper-dense hydrogen (which is superconductive and superfluid at room temperature) on a metal catalyst, from regular plain old hydrogen. And when this magic material is illuminated by a laser, it ignites in reactions of tens or hundreds of MeV…
Basically, an antimatter reactor without the inconveniences of one (except the hard radiation exhaust, oh boy), fed with hydrogen and ignited with a regular, feasible portable laser. Oh, and it is a reliable source of muons, allowing regular fusion as a bonus.
Sounds too good to be true? well maybe it is. But as per all their long publications track, this team has had some experience and a few independent replications.
“The nuclear processes give relativistic particles (kaons, pions and muons) by laser-induced annihilation-like processes in ultra-dense hydrogen”
Which is about as likely to be a real thing as hydrinos. IMHO, anyway.
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