Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A Traveling-wave Engine To Power Deep Space Travel

Date:
September 17, 2004
Source:
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Summary:
A University of California scientist working at Los Alamos National Laboratory and researchers from Northrop Grumman Space Technology have developed a novel method for generating electrical power for deep-space travel using sound waves.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Sept. 16, 2004 – A University of California scientist working at Los Alamos National Laboratory and researchers from Northrop Grumman Space Technology have developed a novel method for generating electrical power for deep-space travel using sound waves. The traveling-wave thermoacoustic electric generator has the potential to power space probes to the furthest reaches of the Universe.

Related Articles


In research reported in a recent issue of the journal Applied Physics Letters, Laboratory scientist Scott Backhaus and his Northrop Grumman colleagues, Emanuel Tward and Mike Petach, describe the design of a thermoacoustic system for the generation of electricity aboard spacecraft. The traveling-wave engine/linear alternator system is similar to the current thermoelectric generators in that it uses heat from the decay of a radioactive fuel to generate electricity, but is more than twice as efficient.

The new design is an improvement over current thermoelectric devices used for the generation of electricity aboard spacecraft. Such devices convert only 7 percent of the heat source energy into electricity. The traveling-wave engine converts 18 percent of the heat source energy into electricity. Since the only moving component in the device besides the helium gas itself is an ambient temperature piston, the device possesses the kind of high-reliability required of deep space probes.

The traveling-wave engine is a modern-day adaptation of the 19th century thermodynamic invention of Robert Stirling –– the Stirling engine –– which is similar to a steam engine, but uses heated air instead of steam to drive a piston. The traveling-wave engine works by sending helium gas through a stack of 322 stainless-steel wire-mesh discs called a regenerator. The regenerator is connected to a heat source and a heat sink that causes the helium to expand and contract. This expansion and contraction creates powerful sound waves –– in much the same way that lightning in the atmosphere causes the thermal expansion that produces thunder. These oscillating sound waves in the traveling-wave engine drive the piston of a linear alternator that generates electricity.

NASA funded the traveling-wave thermoacoustic electric generator research.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of California for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the U.S. Department of Energy and works in partnership with NNSA's Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories to support NNSA in its mission.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Los Alamos National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Los Alamos National Laboratory. "A Traveling-wave Engine To Power Deep Space Travel." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 September 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040917091220.htm>.
Los Alamos National Laboratory. (2004, September 17). A Traveling-wave Engine To Power Deep Space Travel. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040917091220.htm
Los Alamos National Laboratory. "A Traveling-wave Engine To Power Deep Space Travel." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040917091220.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Did the Simpsons Figure out the Higgs Boson Particle Years Before Scientists

Did the Simpsons Figure out the Higgs Boson Particle Years Before Scientists

Buzz60 (Mar. 4, 2015) During a 1998 Simpsons episode, Homer Simpson scribbled a seemingly gibberish equation on a chalkboard. Turns out that equation is a shake off from predicting the actual nano mass of the God Particle. Patrick Jones (@Patrick_E_Jones) explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Wearables Now the Must-Haveables

Wearables Now the Must-Haveables

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 3, 2015) Telecom company executives are meeting in Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress, the largest annual trade show for the wireless industry. As Ivor Bennett reports from the show wearable technology is one of the big themes. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Forensic Holodeck Creates 3D Crime Scenes

Forensic Holodeck Creates 3D Crime Scenes

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 3, 2015) A holodeck is no longer the preserve of TV sci-fi classic Star Trek, thanks to researchers from the Institute of Forensic Medicine Zurich, who have created what they say is the first system in the world to visualise the 3D data of forensic scans. Jim Drury saw it in operation. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Solar Plane Passes New Test Ahead of World Tour

Solar Plane Passes New Test Ahead of World Tour

AFP (Mar. 2, 2015) A solar-powered plane made a third successful test flight in the United Arab Emirates on Monday ahead of a planned round-the-world tour to promote alternative energy. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins