NCBJ begins work on isotopic energy accumulators

NCBJ begins work on isotopic energy accumulators

Research on the rhenium isotope 186m, which could prove to be a useful energy store in the future, has begun at the National Center for Nuclear Research in Swierk. The research work will be funded through a grant from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL).

As the NCBJ press release points out, the problem of energy storage affects many areas of our lives – from global energy, transportation, space exploration to nanorobotics. The biggest challenge, however, remains finding a way to store as much energy as possible in the smallest volume and mass possible.

Theoretically, the ideal energy storage is atomic nuclei. Energy, whichoRa as a result of natural processesow accumulated in uranium nuclei are used today in nuclear power plants. However, uranium or plutonium is a fuel, not a battery. Therefore, physicists are still looking for new ways tooin accumulating and obtaining energy from the nuclei of. One promising ideaow is to use long-lived metastable nuclei.

This is because we have long known that someore atomic nuclei can be excited to such a quantum state, in which theorym for a long time – counted even in hundreds or millions of years – can remain, retaining the excitation energy provided to them. Unfortunately, the phenomenon of quantum excitation does not have a good equivalent on the scale of everyday life. Strongly uogoling, we can say that the components of nuclei – After providing them with excitation energy – begin to vibrate or rather rotate relative to each other (because high spin – which is the quantum equivalent of the angular momentum – is a characteristic feature of such excited, metatrue nuclei). A nucleus remaining in a metatransient excited state can be "urge" to donate excitation energy, whichorhenium has accumulated. It just needs to be supplied with another portion of energy, so that it transitions to a much less permanent state.

– It’s a bit like the ball, whichora stuck in the hole at the top of the gory: if we nudge it a little, it will come out of the hole and roll down the slope, accelerating at the end to the energy thatorhenium we had to consume by bringing it earlier to this gohand,” explains NCBJ.

Spruce will conduct research on one of the most promising candidatesow for an isotopic battery: the 186m rhenium nucleus. The half-excitation time of such an isomer is about. 200 thousand. years, and the value of the energy released in the process is approx. 150 KeV. This means that in 1 gram of rhenium 186m is accumulated approx. 30 kWh of energy – as much as in a popular battery to power an electric car! Theoretically, such an isomer could be a very attractive source ofodÅ‚em of energy – however, one must be able to charge and discharge such a battery of.

– At our Maria research reactor, we will explore the possibility of obtaining 186m rhenium by neutron irradiation of specially prepared targets – explains Dr. Rafal Prokopowicz of NCBJ’s Department of Reactor Research and Techniques, quoted in the release. – We want to study and optimize the efficiency of production of this isomer in the reactor. Maria is a very good tool for this purpose, since the design of our reactor allows us to prepare roThe following conditionsoin irradiation.

– The project is the result of an earlier jointoNCBJ’s research cooperation with ARL and other centers – adds Dr. Jacek Rzadkiewicz, director of the Department of Instrumentation and Nuclear Techniques and project manager. – As part of this wspoCooperation succeeded in carrying out an experiment, in whichorym for the first time observed the release of energy stored in the molybdenum isomer 93. A paper on the subject was published earlier this year in a reputable journal "Nature".

– Szczegolnego support in obtaining the current grant was provided by Dr. J.J. Carroll of ARL, ktory hosted us this week on the occasion of the project’s inauguration and will support theohe cooperated with us during its implementation. Our work is planned for the next 12 months and is not limited to reactor studies only. Their results will also be relevant to basic research. From an analysis of the ratio of rhenium and osmium in the Universe, astrophysicists are drawing interesting cosmological conclusions about evolution and nucleosynthesis. Properties of the isomer of rhenium 186m, whichorhenium nucleus has a lifetime of as much as 200,000. years are relevant to these analyses, and we intend to study them as thoroughly as possible. Our project is thus a model example of how difficult it is sometimes to define the boundary between applied and basic research, a particularoln such a field as nuclear physics,” emphasizes Dr. Rzadkiewicz.

Sourceobackground: PAP- Science in Poland. In the photo, Dr. Jacek Rzadkiewicz (left) and Dr. Rafal Prokopowicz with a tray for irradiating probek to produce rhenium 186m, fot. NCBJ

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