Monday, May 24, 2004
In this post on space combat, Den Beste makes a peripheral point about heat; any energy using system is inevitably going to generate heat, and that has to be dealt with in some way. I’ve been thinking about this for some time (Buckethead’s related essay and musings on heat production also figured in).
So, as an aside from my neglected moonbase series (I really do mean to get back to that), here’s my idea:
-As heat energy warms up the hull, it’s transmitted or convected along the hull into a compartment containing water (or possibly some other substance with a lower boiling point).
-The water is heated, eventually coming to a boil and turning to steam.
-When the pressure builds up the steam is forced through holes in the compartment into a second one, where it cools, transmitting its heat energy into a radiator to be expelled into space.
-Meanwhile the steam being pushed between containers drives a turbine (similar to those found in hydroelectric dams), generating electricity to help power the ship.
-Does a system or material exist to transmit heat energy this way, and if not is it technically feasible?
-How much electricity could be generated by such a system? Would it be enough to be useful?
-Are there any substances that would be more effective than water?
I suspect the answer to the first question is 'no,' but I'll dream the dream anyway. The second two should be easy enough to research. I'll have to make some assumptions about how much energy a spaceship would need, though.
If you’re interested, I also have an idea for a sort of hyperdrive for a spaceship. It involves a giant wheel, a chocolate chip cookie, and a bionic hamster. I’m still working out some of the details.