Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Nuclear-Powered Piston Engines, Some Figures

A few years ago, I came up with a plan for getting power from controlled nuclear fusion: nuclear-powered piston engines:

Imagine a piston engine in which the cylinders are the size of the Vehicle Assembly Building and the spark plugs are replaced by nuclear bombs.
Let's see… A megaton is \(4.184\times10^{15}~\text{J}\). A typical pressure in a piston engine is about 1 MPa or \(10^6~\text{J}/\text{m}^3\). In other words, you would need a volume of \(4.184\times10^9~\text{m}^3\). That would be a cube a mile on a side.

The Vehicle-Assembly Building isn't big enough. Even the Boeing Everett Factory isn't big enough. Even a building the area of the largest Target import warehouse and the height of the Burj Khalifa misses by a factor of 30. Bummer.

This isn't a matter of “Wait for next year!” It's a matter of “Wait for next century!”


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