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Thread: Can getting fuels from space solve our energy problems?

  1. #1 Can getting fuels from space solve our energy problems? 
    Forum Professor mmatt9876's Avatar
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    There is a lot of fuels in space. The planet Neptune and Saturn's moon Titan have a large amount of natural gas in their atmospheres. The Sun is usually belting out huge clouds of hydrogen gas, which I think can be trapped by the magnetic fields of plants at times. The sun also emits plenty of light radiations. In the near future could we take advantage of these things to power our overburdened world?


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    Forum Ph.D. Leszek Luchowski's Avatar
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    When all those fuels start arriving on Earth, I'll start drilling for oxygen.


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  4. #3  
    Forum Professor mmatt9876's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leszek Luchowski
    When all those fuels start arriving on Earth, I'll start drilling for oxygen.
    I guess you would have to find a way to recycle the oxygen, like it happens in nature with plants. Otherwise get it from space.
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmatt9876
    Quote Originally Posted by Leszek Luchowski
    When all those fuels start arriving on Earth, I'll start drilling for oxygen.
    I guess you would have to find a way to recycle the oxygen, like it happens in nature with plants. Otherwise get it from space.

    The trouble is that, since the source the source of your energy is the very reaction that trapped the oxygen in the first place, you'll have to spend more energy than you created if you want to recycle it. It's still a tempting proposition. I imagine somebody will try it if space travel ever becomes easy. It would be better if they didn't, but since when has the government refused to allow any corporation permission to do something short sighted, but profitable?
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    It is not likely to be a factor in our near term energy budget, but down the road a ways, Helium 3 may become an important fuel. Helium 3 is favored as a fusion fuel because it can theoretically be fused producing no free neutrons, which are seen as the primary environmental hazard associated with fusion. On the downside, reactions fusing Helium 3 are more difficult to initiate than so called "first generation" reactions such as fusing Deuterium with Tritium. Helium 3 is only found in tiny quantities on Earth, not enough to be usable as a fuel. It is however, known to exist in significant quantities elsewhere in the solar system, such as the Moon's surface and in the atmospheres of the gas giants.
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    Theatre Whore babe's Avatar
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    HOW would you safely SHIP it? Curious.
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    HOW would you safely SHIP it? Curious.
    Helium 3? Its neither radioactive nor chemically active, and large quantities are not needed. About 25 tons would supply US energy needs for a year. Gathering it and concentrating it would be a far harder problem than shipping it.
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    Theatre Whore babe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by danhanegan View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    HOW would you safely SHIP it? Curious.
    Helium 3? Its neither radioactive nor chemically active, and large quantities are not needed. About 25 tons would supply US energy needs for a year. Gathering it and concentrating it would be a far harder problem than shipping it.
    Could you please explain why?
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    Universalis Infinitis Devon Keogh's Avatar
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    Fusion energy would be easier to produce than traveling across solar sytems looking for relatively worthless natural gas and the like that can be created artificially on the earth at no excessively expensive price.

    Take for example the rotting of old food produce, which gives off methane gas to be used as a fuel source, a better option than building a 5 billion dollar spaceship to travel across the solar system to get only enough fuel to power about 5 houses for a few weeks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by danhanegan View Post
    It is not likely to be a factor in our near term energy budget, but down the road a ways, Helium 3 may become an important fuel. Helium 3 is favored as a fusion fuel because it can theoretically be fused producing no free neutrons, which are seen as the primary environmental hazard associated with fusion.
    Actually the reason that the helium 3 reaction is so interesting is that the reaction products are high energy charged particles that can be converted directly to electricity with no Carnot engine. Thus it is a much more efficient method of converting nuclear power to electrical power. Also note that in the most feasible reaction (D-He3 fusion) there is still D-D fusion occurring which releases neutrons. A 'pure' He3 - He3 reaction is a long ways away because of the temperatures required.
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Devon Keogh View Post
    Fusion energy would be easier to produce than traveling across solar sytems looking for relatively worthless natural gas and the like that can be created artificially on the earth at no excessively expensive price.

    Take for example the rotting of old food produce, which gives off methane gas to be used as a fuel source, a better option than building a 5 billion dollar spaceship to travel across the solar system to get only enough fuel to power about 5 houses for a few weeks.
    Quite so. As Douglas Adams says, in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (or one of its sequels: I forget exactly which), "In space, the numbers are awful."

    Actually, without leaving Earth, there is a similar and fundamental point to be made about energy. Always consider its delivered cost. For example oil and gas companies have projects to turn so-called "stranded" natural gas into higher value liquid fuel at source, because the costs of extraction and transport from some places would make the gas itself uneconomic at the point of delivery.

    Gas in Jupiter or Neptune is effectively "stranded" gas, too.
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    Forum Ph.D. merumario's Avatar
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    Why waste billions to obtain fuel from space there will be no net gain!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leszek Luchowski View Post
    When all those fuels start arriving on Earth, I'll start drilling for oxygen.
    Why oxygen? There's no shortage here on Earth. The atmosphere has a good amount and there's tremendously more locked up in the Lithosphere.

    Natural gases and simple hydrocarbons are pretty easy to get on Earth as well or use the biota to manufacture. And really humans have barely scratched the surface for good energy fuels here on Earth--there really isn't an energy crisis, just a reluctance to switch them over for sound and not-so sound reasons (mostly the later).

    I can see the value in getting fuels out of deep space in low-G places for space vehicles though--since that saves the energy and risk of lifting it from Earth's gravity well.
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    I think he was saying that such a thing would be so far flung in the future and silly that even the oxygen would have been used up by then.
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    Date on post #4; April 7, 2010.
    Date on post #5; Sept 6, 2013.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neverfly View Post
    I think he was saying that such a thing would be so far flung in the future and silly that even the oxygen would have been used up by then.
    Or perhaps it was a reference to greenhouse effect?
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