Nuclear Power Has More Uses than You Think
Nuclear Power is the most sustainable type of renewable energy. It is both environmentally and socially friendly, yet it is not very common in today’s world. However, the idea of nuclear fusion has never been more prevalent, and there are many more undiscovered uses for this new technology.
Researchers from National Renewable Energy Laboratory, headquartered in Los Alamos, is trying to change that.
Located in the heart of the desert, the lab’s plant-based energy storage system concentrates nuclear fusion’s heat to create energy. The result is hydrogen fuel, a renewable and very efficient fuel that can be used in fuel cells.
The team of researchers from the lab took the temperature of the surrounding air to generate hydrogen fuel. Their findings will be published in the journal Joule in May 2018.
“We found that the more compact, the better,” said Matthew Link, a co-author of the paper and a senior researcher at the lab, to the Guardian. “You can see how it works, and then you can start generating hydrogen fuel. There’s no combustion with this system. It’s all hydrogen.”
The system is made up of a nuclear fusion reactor surrounded by a layer of platinum. The power plant is heated using a small amount of steam, which is then used to generate electricity.
“In one of the most hostile environments on Earth, we found out that there’s a relatively simple process that can cool the water in a nuclear fusion reactor and then produce hydrogen fuel,” said Link. “The temperature of the nuclear fusion reactor is about 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a much more manageable temperature.”
Link said that the process is similar to the process by which water is heated in a conventional plant. “It’s a similar process, except that instead of using oxygen, we use hydrogen.”
The process is simple and open-ended, so the team is looking into other uses, like creating electricity in a reactor. “We’re testing what an atom can do,” he said. “If you find other uses, we’ll see.”
Link said that the process of nuclear fusion can also be used to purify drinking water. “You’ve got to use sunlight and water, which requires electricity to produce hydrogen fuel,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure the hydrogen fuel stays inside the reactor. If it goes out of control, then the reactor stops producing hydrogen fuel and you’re making electricity. If you make hydrogen fuel with electricity, you’re still using electricity to produce hydrogen fuel, but this process also uses the sun to produce hydrogen fuel.”
The team is currently working on its reactor and hopes to build it up. “We’re going to try to make the process more compact,” Link said.