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Thread: Liquid Mercury as interstellar fuel

  1. #1 Liquid Mercury as interstellar fuel 
    Forum Freshman xLethalVixenx's Avatar
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    What if we used ionized liquid mercury as fuel for interstellar travel? Long lasting and efficient, is it not? Have there been any testing with this theory? Is this a ridiculous question? I have no clue if there is already a thread about this as I am new to the forum. I apologize if this has already been brought up. Being in space, there'd be no issue with keeping it cool, right?


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  3. #2  
    Bullshit Intolerant PhDemon's Avatar
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    I don't know where to start with how daft this is, it seems as if you are playing science bullshit bingo...

    1. Mercury is very dense, the sheer weight that would be needed makes it impractical.
    2. Being in space, it is so cold it would be solid not liquid.
    3. How will you ioniser the mercury? How will you stop it becoming "unionised
    4. How do you propose it to work as a fuel?


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  4. #3  
    Forum Freshman xLethalVixenx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhDemon View Post
    I don't know where to start with how daft this is, it seems as if you are playing science bullshit bingo...

    1. Mercury is very dense, the sheer weight that would be needed makes it impractical.
    2. Being in space, it is so cold it would be solid not liquid.
    3. How will you ioniser the mercury? How will you stop it becoming "unionised
    4. How do you propose it to work as a fuel?





    Daft? That's kind of rude isn't it? I'm not well versed in all things science, it was just a question. I'm here to learn, I'll take that my question is absurd considering its density. Thanks for informing me. I don't know how one would ionize mercury, I don't know how one would stop it from being unionized. I'm not trying to play any type of "bullshit bingo".
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  5. #4  
    Bullshit Intolerant PhDemon's Avatar
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    Not rude, just direct. You need a thick skin in science
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  6. #5  
    Forum Freshman xLethalVixenx's Avatar
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    Yeah, maybe you're right. However, seeing as I have no education in any science field I feel silly now for having asked such a daft question. But like I said, was just a question and I'm here to learn. In your opinion, is there any possible way in which mercury could be used as fuel? Even if that is just nonsense, how could we make mercury work and would it probable?
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  7. #6  
    Bullshit Intolerant PhDemon's Avatar
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    Not off the top of my head. Why did you pick mercury? Why not any other element, compound or fuel?
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  8. #7  
    Forum Freshman xLethalVixenx's Avatar
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    This is going to sound ridiculous and absolutely unscientific..... It was proposed as fuel on the show Ancient Aliens. I know, I know. Stupid, right? Well, I was listening to what they were saying and it sounded plausible BUT again, I am not well versed in science. I don't even know how mercury behaves. I just wanted to get feedback from logical people lol. The show is pretty much bullshit but sometimes they raise questions that are quite intriguing. Please don't make fun of me for watching that show haha.
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  9. #8  
    Bullshit Intolerant PhDemon's Avatar
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    As long as you realise it is entertainment, don't take it seriously!
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  10. #9  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Fuel - no.
    Propellent - yes.
    It has been used (here) but it would only work in low-thrust (e.g. ion) engines. Any "interstellar mission" would be quite long-term...
    "[Dywyddyr] makes a grumpy bastard like me seem like a happy go lucky scamp" - PhDemon
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  11. #10  
    Forum Freshman xLethalVixenx's Avatar
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    Thank you for your reply, @Dywyddyr. Forgive my ignorance but wouldn't interstellar missions be of low-thrust anyways? I mean with our current technology we obviously cannot reach or surpass the speed of light. And I think propellant is what I initially meant. Use our current quick burning fuel for launch and then utilize the mercury propellant once in orbit?
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  12. #11  
    Bullshit Intolerant PhDemon's Avatar
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    Ah, a lesson in the importance of word use in science, if you'd said propellant rather than fuel in the OP, it would have been less daft
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  13. #12  
    Forum Freshman xLethalVixenx's Avatar
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    Yeah, poor use of proper wording, I apologize. I don't really know how to say things sometimes.
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  14. #13  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xLethalVixenx View Post
    wouldn't interstellar missions be of low-thrust anyways?
    It doesn't necessarily follow...
    But when I say "low-thrust" I mean really low ("25–250 millinewtons: An ion drive would require two days to accelerate a car to highway speed" [from previous link]- that's about 142 years just to reach escape velocity of the Solar system).

    I mean with our current technology we obviously cannot reach or surpass the speed of light.
    Granted - but the sooner the ship gets to high speed the shorter the mission time. (And the much shorter the subjective time).
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  15. #14  
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    What is the difference(fuel vs propellant)?

    Is fuel just for getting into orbit?
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  16. #15  
    Forum Freshman xLethalVixenx's Avatar
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    This is also an issue to consider...

    "Mercury readily combines with aluminium to form a mercury-aluminium amalgam when the two pure metals come into contact. Since the amalgam destroys the aluminium oxide layer which protects metallic aluminium from oxidizing in-depth (as in iron rusting), even small amounts of mercury can seriously corrode aluminium. For this reason, mercury is not allowed aboard an aircraft under most circumstances because of the risk of it forming an amalgam with exposed aluminium parts in the aircraft.[14]

    Mercury embrittlement is the most common type of liquid metal embrittlement."
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  17. #16  
    Forum Freshman xLethalVixenx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    What is the difference(fuel vs propellant)?

    Is fuel just for getting into orbit?
    Fuel I guess would be initial thrust and propellant is constant thrust?
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  18. #17  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    What is the difference(fuel vs propellant)?

    Is fuel just for getting into orbit?
    No.
    Fuel is what provides the energy to the propellent. The propellent is what provides the thrust.
    You have to "chuck stuff out the back" to get any thrust.
    The confusion arises because traditionally rockets use the same materials to give both (e.g. the liquid oxygen/ liquid hydrogen provides fuel by burning and imparts energy to the exhaust gases that give the thrust).
    In an ion engine the propellent is the mercury (or whatever) while the fuel would be an electrical source ( on-board batteries/ generators, solar cells, nuclear power plant...)
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  19. #18  
    Bullshit Intolerant PhDemon's Avatar
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    This is also an issue to consider...

    "Mercury readily combines with aluminium to form a mercury-aluminium amalgam when the two pure metals come into contact. Since the amalgam destroys the aluminium oxide layer which protects metallic aluminium from oxidizing in-depth (as in iron rusting), even small amounts of mercury can seriously corrode aluminium. For this reason, mercury is not allowed aboard an aircraft under most circumstances because of the risk of it forming an amalgam with exposed aluminium parts in the aircraft.[14]
    Mercury embrittlement is the most common type of liquid metal embrittlement."
    True, I used to work on scientific research aircraft, one of my instruments used a mercury lamp for photolysis, the paperwork involved with getting that on board was horrendous!

    To get it certified as safe to fly I had to enclose the lamp in an aluminium block that would capture the mercury even though the amount of mercury involved was tiny...
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  20. #19  
    Forum Freshman xLethalVixenx's Avatar
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    So, then how would one even use Mercury on a space craft safely? I still have a lot to learn about mercury and space travel. lol
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  21. #20  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xLethalVixenx View Post
    So, then how would one even use Mercury on a space craft safely?
    The same way all dangerous materials are used in any application: very carefully!
    We (humans) have a history of using stuff we shouldn't1 and getting it to work, but with regard to mercury it wouldn't be accessible by any crew while in-flight and the ground/ servicing crew would have facilities for safe handling on-site.

    1 The Me 163 springs to mind: a WWII manned rocket fighter that used T-Stoff and C-Stoff as fuel/ propellent, materials so dangerous that should they come into contact with each there'd be an exothermic reaction (read: explosion) so powerful that a single drop of each igniting could take your hand (or head) off. Additionally one of them was toxic (C-Stoff) and the other (T-Stoff) could actually dissolve a human body on contact. If the pilot survived the mission (trying to shoot down Allied bombers) he faced the prospect of landing where any unburnt fuel could blow up his plane on landing or literally melt him if there was any leak caused by enemy gunfire allowing fuel into the cockpit.
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