Fusion engine for antimatter

02.05.2018

News space become hotter: NASA is going to use antimatter in a spacecraft of the future.

Fusion reactions initiated by anti-matter particle beams can begin to set in motion ultra-high-speed spaceships sent on long journeys, already by the middle of this century, the researchers say.

Ships with thermonuclear engines will be able to reach Jupiter in 4 months, thus opening the way to the external Solar system human expeditions, according to NASA's report for 2010.

To make this technology available, scientists will have to overcome many obstacles - in particular those associated with obtaining and storing antimatter - but some experts believe that it can be ready by the middle of the century.

The power of nuclear fusion is amazing

The fuel for such a ship with fusion engines will probably consist of small pellets containing deuterium and tritium - heavy isotopes of hydrogen that contain one or two neutrons respectively in their nuclei. (There is no neutron in the nucleus of an ordinary hydrogen atom.)

Inside each pellet, this fuel would be surrounded with another substance, possibly uranium. The flow of protons equivalent protons of anti-matter having electric charge of -1, not +1, - will be sent to these granules.

When the antiprotons come into contact with uranium nuclei, they will annihilate, creating high-energy decay products that will trigger nuclear fusion reactions in the fuel.

Such reactions-for example, the fusion of deuterium and tritium nuclei, leading to the formation of one helium atom - 4 and one neutron-release a huge amount of energy that can be used to force the spacecraft to move in several different directions.

"The energy released by such reactions can be used to heat the fuel or to generate momentum by magnetic retention of the plasma and magnetic nozzle," the 2010 report entitled "Limits of modern technology: Revolutionary breakthroughs in space exploration", which NASA released with the support of the Tauri Group and a number of experts, says.

The main idea is as follows: during the project" Daedalus", a study conducted by the British interplanetary society in the 1970s, it was proposed to use a thermonuclear rocket engine for interstellar spaceships. However, then it was assumed that the fusion of nuclei, considered in the project "Daedalus", should be initiated by electron beams, not antiprotons.

And yet something still prevents us

Although nuclear fusion, launched by antiprotons beams, is a very attractive technology, scientists still have a lot of work to do before the implementation of these ideas.

Perhaps the hardest part will be getting the antiprotons - which can be created in particle accelerators - in sufficient quantities and storing them long enough to make a long journey.

According to the report "the Limits of modern technology", for the flight to Jupiter, may take up to 1.16 grams of antiprotons. This, of course, is not a very frightening figure, but it should be taken into account that currently the production capacity allows you to receive only billion shares of a gram of this substance.

However, the volume of antiprotons produced is increasing rapidly, and it is hoped that the next major scientific breakthrough associated with space propulsion systems will take place before the onset of 2060.