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April 14, 2008

Solid state Megawatt lasers for 2012

Solid state laser components.

Wired reported that the Navy is funding a follow on megawatt laser project to the 100 kilowatt solid state free electron laser project.

I had previusly covered the progress and technical details of the 100kw laser project and here

The Navy is pushing ahead with a five-year, $163 million dollar plan make megawatt free electron lasers. So by the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013, the goal is to have a new megawatt laser prototype.


Previous megawatt lasers like the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL)required hundreds of gallons of toxic chemicals for each shot. So a "mobile system" was eight cargo containers in size.

There was also the airborne megawatt chemical based laser for shooting down missiles.


New navy ships could have electric generators and engines.


Superconducting engines are 1/3 of the weight (69 tons instead of 200 tons) and half the size of conventional engines and are up to 10% more fuel efficient at low speed A typical destroyer has 200,000 gallons of fuel (300 gallons per ton is 6700 tons of fuel).

Existing nuclear powered submarines tend to have one or two reactors in the 190MW range. The nuclear reactors for naval ships range in size up to 550MW. A nuclear aircraft carrier can have eight of the 190MW reactors.

Naval reactors are pressurized water, liquid-metal-cooled, or boiling water types, which differ from commercial reactors producing electricity in that:

Naval reactors have a high power density in a small volume; some run on low-enriched uranium (requiring frequent refuelings), others run on highly enriched uranium (>20% U-235, varying from over 96% in U.S. submarines (They do not need to be refueled as often and are quieter in operation from smaller core) to between 30–40% in Russian submarines to lower levels in some others), the fuel is not UO2 (Uranium Oxide) but a metal-zirconium alloy (circa 15% U with 93% enrichment, or more U with lower enrichment), the design enables a compact pressure vessel while maintaining safety.

If this is to scale then the reactor and engine take up half the nuclear submarines volume. With the reactor within a 33 foot hull diameter and about 25 feet long for about 25,000 cubic feet of volume.

Here is a site with a lot of details on naval nuclear reactors.

The navy nuclear reactors are about 1100 to 2250 tons.


The OK 650B nuclear reactor.

Nuclear batteries (Uraniam hydride reactors) could also be developed by 2012 and could offer smaller power sources for powering Megawatt lasers or new railguns. A nuclear power source would lighter be than an fossil fuel engine and fuel. The uranium hydride or other liquid core reactors would be smaller than current reactors.

Better solid state lasers will help enable space launches with laser arrays.

If the Bussard fusion system proves successful, then the world of 2025-2035 could have powerful interplanetary spaceships with multi-Megawatt lasers and railguns.

FURTHER READING
Powerful lasers could create plasma channels to trigger and guide lightning from thunderstorm clouds

More military laser projects.

On the way to being able to make the equivalent of the fictional Mark V to Mark X Bolos (fictional tanks).

Mark XX bolo

Bolo at wikipedia

Hellbores are measured in megatons/second.
1 megaton is equal to 4.183 X 10**15 joules One watt is one joule/second.

4 comments:

qraal said...

Hi Brian

Bussard fusor-ships battling it out with fusor-powered FELs and rail-guns? Nasty. I hope we do better things with such technology Out There. Let's see a real Space Race, with nations reaching out to every rock in this Solar System. China on Mars, USA on Jupiter, Uganda on Juno, Cambodia on Charon... something more risky and exciting than blasting each other with energy weapons!

qraal said...

And my home country, Australia? I think we should aim for another world of orange plains of fine dust... Titan, of course.

bw said...

I agree that even with the technology available there would better things to do than have spaceships have a battle with futuristic weapons.

I was noting that certain technological developments could make the world of the relatively near future appear much like classic science fiction.

AI driving + AGI + fusion/fission power source + lasers and railguns = bolo tanks

Fusor fusion space ships + weapons + metamaterials + in solar system space colonies + terraforming + quadrillion rocks (perhaps 30-100 moon/earth size planets and planetoids + nanotechnology= the world of star trek within the solar system

Plus we can go beyond with extreme SENS and other life extension, rejuvenation, regeneration, gene therapy, ...

Even without an AGI based singularity the technology that could be available very soon looks to be very impressive and provide a shift bigger than moving from horses to cars/planes.

philw1776 said...

Let me be the first to warn readers that such lasers are NOT IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCES to be used for amusement like shining the laser beam on the wall to watch your cats attack it.