Bucky Batteries are power generators built around a man-made radioactive core with a half-life of 91,634.4 years.Â The core is constructed by generating short-lived rare earth metal atoms inside buckyballs made from radioactive silicon isotopes.Â The steric and ionic forces of the buckyball extend the half-life of the metal. The battery's hardware converts radiation into useable energy. They are inefficient to produce, less than a 10th of the initial energy cost will be released as radiation.Â They tend to be large; the battery in deep space buoys has a mass of 36 metric tons and produces 144 kilowatts a day.Â
A few alternate wide spread uses for them:
-Gravity plating on starships: A nice emergency back up to keep gravity functioning at .3-.6 G's or so during a catastrophic system failure. While far from earth normal being able to move about normally allows crews to better effect repairs then attempting to maneuver in zero gravity.
Atmospheric terraforming equipment Perfect to run the gargantuan terraforming installations on uninhabitable worlds, as these batteries take very little maintenance, and will operate the terrafomring equipment reliably for the 100+ years it takes to turn a plant habitable. (and keep it that way.)
Escape pods: While not generally the primary power supply, a bucky battery can provide sufficent power to a cryo capsule and maintain it's functionality for immense time spans, perfect to allow ample time for the pod to be rescued, or travel as slower then light speeds to an inhabitable planet. (Something that could take decades if not centuries depending on the location it is launched from and end velocity.)
Armor plating: When made from a dense actinide element (like depleted uranium!), even armor plating can serve to power the ship. Not only is it dense enough to protect the ship from ballistics and lasers, it also serves as an auxiliary power source, lightening the load on the ship's reactors.
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? Responses (16)
I can think of a great number of uses for something like this, the first that comes to mind is as the power source for navigational beacons and bouys around star systems and and for interstellar travel. The power requirement to just run a basic ping is pretty low, and if it has a few capacitors it can charge up and release fairly 'loud' navigational pings. Some other ideas include powering scientific observation satellites, the sort of thing a starship would zip up and kick out and move on, while scientists elsewhere receive and decipher the data. Good thing for long term observations, or for providing satellites to frontier level worlds and colonies. It doesn't carry a lot of data, but a satellite with a bucky core could serve as the seed of global communications.
You've managed to make the battery novel, not an easy task.
I could see them used as an auxilliary battery in starships, something equivalent to having a second battery in your car to power just the lights. Although, in the case of spacefaring, it would be better served as life support. The incredibly long lifespan would mean that even used-spaceship buyers wouldn't have to worry about replacing them.
A nice short and simple sub with widespread implications and use in a scifi world. Creative characters/players can no doubt find plenty of way to use "bucky bats" to optomize their ship and/or equipment.
A intuitive Gm can find plenty of places they would come in handy to make spacefaring society run smoothly.
Okay. Atomic batteries from the future. Atomic batteries are very energy dense: 1g of Pm-147 has a hell of a lot more energy than 1g of gasoline.
The biggest problem is: why would you ever use a bucky battery instead of solar panels? Space is full of free energy. Hell, starlight can even push your ship.
But the other problem is wattage. Atomic batteries trickle out their energy over very long times. The way we use it now (space, deep-sea, pacemakers) it is just to monitor a low-energy sensor, and then activate a lithium battery or something that actually sends out a signal, activates an alarm, etc.
The half-life is a problem, too. If you double the half-life, you cut the wattage in half. Out of all the possible isotope/buckyball configurations, why would we design a battery that lasts thousands of years (which we probably don't need) at the expense of effective power (which we do)?
Also, kW/day doesn't make a lot of sense, since 1 W = 1 Joule per second.
Lasty (and you pointed this out), atomic batteries are going to have an abysmal wattage/kg compared to other fuels. An escape pod would need to move quickly to avoid fusion reactor explosions, and then point themselves at their destinations.
Inthe vast gulf between stars, or in areas where the sun is nearly dead (brown dwarf style) solar energy may not prove sufficient compared to one of these batteries.
The other downside to Solar panels is they can prove somewhat fragile in an area with frequent asteroid showers, and would also be somewhat useless to power a terraforming tower if it is terraforming a world with an atmosphere too thick for sunlight to effectively penetrate.
Your comment exceed 100 words, which was the limit for this item.
'The biggest problem is: why would you ever use a bucky battery instead of solar panels? Space is full of free energy. Hell, starlight can even push your ship. '
Perhaps on a dedicated spaceship you wouldn't. As with wattage you would need capacitors and other hardware to make use of the core. Can you harness starlight if you are moving faster than light?
'But the other problem is wattage. Atomic batteries trickle out their energy over very long times. The way we use it now (space, deep-sea, pacemakers) it is just to monitor a low-energy sensor, and then activate a lithium battery or something that actually sends out a signal, activates an alarm, etc.'
Okay, so this is a good use for atomic batteries.
'The half-life is a problem, too. If you double the half-life, you cut the wattage in half. Out of all the possible isotope/buckyball configurations, why would we design a battery that lasts thousands of years (which we probably don't need) at the expense of effective power (which we do)?'
The half-life isn't the problem as I see it, the half-life was the point, because
-Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.-
I wanted to create something man made that could transcend the a historic time scale, be a note on a geological time scale and a blip on the galactic time scale. How long will space exploration take? How does time work when things move faster then light. Some old sci-troupes may have a man traveling for 10,000 years but only aging 10 years. Will he want to be able to turn on the lights when he gets home? The time scale that you suggest (we need) is story specific. I know that many readers and sci-fi fans find long-time scales difficult to accept. I read that focus groups found Aragon's in the Lord of the Rings off putting.
What time scale for a sci-fi narrative do you think people are willing accept for a story about humanity? 100 years in the future, 10,000 years in the future, 100,000 years in the future? I am have always found the out of time or over lapping time line stories to be very interesting and compelling.
Also, is technology always going to give us the best and most efficient answer to problems?
'Kw/Day' You think giving the joules released per gram per second or coulombs per kilo would make this more accessible?
And it's very energy expensive to push heavy objects out of the atmosphere, as well as around from planet to planet. And atomic batteries big enough to power the life support systems of a ship would be very, very heavy.
Nice and useful.
Okay, so the big difference between these and real world RTGs is that RTGs use far shorter half-lifed materials, and so the energy/kg of fuel is much more dilute over time.
A neat idea.
Nobody else called that out! The real piece of B.S. sci-fi hand waving in this is not the radioactive power source but the mechanism of extending atomic half lives.
I'm fascinated by RTGs, and wish there was a decent way to capture gamma/xrays to generate power with any degree of efficiency. RTGs are a little better than steam engines, using a thermal-couple, but capturing heat seems so primitive.
That was another unexplored conceit in here, the hardware that converts the radiation to usable energy/electricity is not clearly defined. I imagine that would be something similar to solar panels directed at receiving the radiation. But perhaps we could imagine some sort of particle sink that could collect gamma rays, increase the energy state of a nuclear particle (as opposed to increase the energy status of electron orbits) , then release the energy again before returning to a lower energy receptor status.
nOT REALLY FRESH GROUND BUT A NICE i DEA FOR SYFY 3.5
A good attempt to rationalize something that might often be glossed over in your typical sci-fi setting.