Helium-Three — the energy of the future

18 Сен

Helium-Three — the energy of the future

Helium-three. Strange and incomprehensible phrase. Nevertheless, the farther, the more we will hear it. Because, according to experts, it is helium-three will save our world from an impending energy crisis. And in this enterprise, Russia is actively acting.

This statement of the head of the Rocket and Space Corporation «Energia» Nikolai Sevastyanova was perceived by Russian scientific observers as an application for the formation of a new «national project».

After all, in fact, one of the main functions of the state, especially in the 20th century, was just formulating to the society of tasks on the verge of imagination. It concerned the Soviet state: electrification, industrialization, creating an atomic bomb, first satellite, rotation of rivers.

Today, the state is trying in the Russian Federation, but cannot formulate the tasks on the verge of the impossible. The state needs someone to show him a national project and substantiated the benefits, which from this project in theory arise. The Program for the development and production of helium-3 from the Moon to Earth in order to supply thermonuclear energy fuel perfectly meets these requirements.

The promising thermonuclear energy that uses the reaction of the synthesis of deuterium-tritium as the basis, although more secure than the energy division of the atomic core, which is used in modern NPPs, still has a number of significant drawbacks.

In the case of use in the Thermonuclear Reactor, the deuterium with Helium Isotope-3 instead of tritium, most problems can be solved. The intensity of the neutron flux falls 30 times, respectively, it is possible to easily provide the service life of 30-40 years. After the end of the operation of the helium reactor, highly active waste is not formed, and the radioactivity of structural elements will be so small, which can be buried literally on the city dump, slightly sprinkled with the earth.

What is the problem? Why do we still do not use such advantageous thermalide fuel?

First of all, because on our planet of this isotope is extremely few. It is born in the sun, which is sometimes called «solar isotope». His total mass there exceeds the weight of our planet. In the surrounding space, helium-3 is distributed by sunny wind. The magnetic field of the Earth deflects a significant part of this wind, and therefore helium-3 is only one trillion part of the earth’s atmosphere — approximately 4000 tons. On the earth itself even less — about 500 kg.

On the moon of this isotope is much more. There, it is engaged in the lunar soil «Regolit», according to the composition resembling the usual slag. We are talking about huge — almost inexhaustible reserves!

High content of helium-3 in the lunar regolite in 1970 found a physicist Pepin, studying the samples of the soil delivered by the American Space Ships of the Apollo series. However, this discovery did not attract attention until 1985, when the nuclear physicists from Wisconsin University headed by J. Kulchinsky «overcurned» the lunar reserves of helium.

Analysis of the six soil samples brought by expeditions «Apollo» and two samples delivered by Soviet automatic stations «

In addition to the moon, Helium-3 can be found in the dense atmospheres of planets-giants, and, according to theoretical estimates, its reserves only on Jupiter are 1020 tons, which would have enough for the energy of the Earth to the condation of times.

The regite covers the moon with a layer with a thickness of several meters. Regite the lunar seas is richer helium than the plane regolith. 1 kg of helium-3 contains approximately 100,000 tons of regolith.

Consequently, in order to produce a precious isotope, it is necessary to recycle a huge amount of crumbly lunar soil.

Taking into account all the features, Helium-3 production technology should include the following processes:

The production of regolith.

Special «combines» will collect regite from the surface layer with a thickness of about 2 m and deliver it to processing points or processes directly in the production process.

Isolation of helium from regolith.

When the regolith is heated to 600? C highlifted (desorbed) 75% of the helium contained in the regolite, when heated to 800? C is almost all helium. Dust heating is proposed to be conducted in special furnaces, focusing sunlight or plastic lenses or mirrors.

Delivery to Earth with reusable spacecraft.

In the extraction of helium-3 from the regolith, numerous substances are also extracted: hydrogen, water, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, methane, carbon monoxide, which can be useful for maintaining the lunar industrial complex.

The project of the first lunar combine intended for processing the regolith and the allocation of Helia-3 isotope from it was proposed by the group J. Kulchinsky. Currently, private American companies are developing several prototypes, which, apparently, will be presented to the competition after NASA is determined with the features of the future expedition to the moon.

It is clear that, in addition to the delivery of combines to the moon, there will have to build a storage facility, a database (for servicing the entire equipment complex), a cosmodrome and much more. It is estimated that the high costs for creating a developed infrastructure on the moon will pay a hundredfold in terms of the fact that a global energy crisis is coming when the traditional types of energy (coal, oil, natural gas) will have to be abandoned.

On the way to the creation of energy based on helium-3 there is one important problem. The fact is that the deuterium-helium-3 reaction is much more complicated than the deuterium-tritium reaction.

First of all, it is extremely difficult to set fire to the mixture of these isotopes. The estimated temperature at which the thermonuclear reaction will go to the deuterium-tritium mixture is 100-200 million degrees. When using helium-3, the required temperature is two orders of magnitude higher. In fact, we must light on the ground a small sun.

However, the history of the development of nuclear energy (last half a century) demonstrates an increase in the generated temperatures for an order for 10 years. In 1990, the European Tokamak JET was already burning helium-3, while the resulting capacity was 140 kW. At about the same way, the temperature of the TFTR is reached on the American TFTR tokamak, the temperature required to start the reaction in the deuterium-helium mixture was achieved.

However, the mixture is still half down. The minus of thermonuclear energy is the complexity of obtaining practical returns, because the working body is heated to many millions of plasma degrees, which you have to hold in a magnetic field.

For many decades, experiments on plasma taking place are held for many decades, but only at the end of June last year in Moscow representatives of a number of countries have signed an agreement on construction in the south of France in the city of Kadarash International Experimental Thermalide Reactor (ITER) — prototype of a practical thermonuclear power plant. The ITER fuel will use deuterium with tritium.

Thermonuclear reactor on helium-3 will be constructively more complicated than ITER, and so far it is not even in projects. And although specialists hope that the prototype of the reactor to Helia-3 will appear in the next 20-30 years, while this technology remains purest fiction.

The issue of Helia-3 production was analyzed by experts during hearings on the future research and development of the Moon, held in April 2004 in the subcommittee on the Space and Aeronautics of the Committee on Science of the Chamber of Deputies of the US Congress. Their conclusion was unequivocal: even in a distant future, Helia-3 production on the moon is completely unprofitable.

As John Logsdon noted, director of the Space Policy Institute from Washington: «The US Space Community does not consider Helium-3 mining as a serious preposition to return to the moon. To fly there behind this isotope is like five hundred years ago to send Columbus to India for uranium. He could bring it to him, and would bring, just a few hundred years no one would know what to do with it. «

This statement of the head of the Rocket and Space Corporation «Energia» Nikolai Sevastyanova was perceived by Russian scientific observers as an application for the formation of a new «national project».

After all, in fact, one of the main functions of the state, especially in the 20th century, was just formulating to the society of tasks on the verge of imagination. It concerned the Soviet state: electrification, industrialization, creating an atomic bomb, first satellite, rotation of rivers.

Today, the state is trying in the Russian Federation, but cannot formulate the tasks on the verge of the impossible. The state needs someone to show him a national project and substantiated the benefits, which from this project in theory arise. The Program for the development and production of helium-3 from the Moon to Earth in order to supply thermonuclear energy fuel perfectly meets these requirements.

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