Method to Convert Nuclear Energy Directly into Power without Steam (Apr. 17, 2009) — University of Missouri researchers are developing an economically feasible method of converting nuclear energy directly into electricity that would be cheaper than current nuclear conversion technology.

nuclear-power “Direct conversion of nuclear energy has not been possible previously,” said Mark Prelas, professor of nuclear engineering and director of research at MU’s Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute.

This energy conversion system uses relatively safe isotopes to generate high-grade energy. Current nuclear technology has an intermediate thermalization phase between the nuclear reaction and when the energy is converted to electricity. This phase reduces the efficiency of the energy conversion process.”

Researchers have developed a process called Radioisotope Energy Conversion System (RECS). In the first step of the process, the ion energy from radioisotopes is transported to an intermediate photon generator called a fluorescer and produces photons, which are the basic units of light. In the second step of the process, the photons are transported out of the fluorescer to photovoltaic cells, which efficiently convert the photon energy into electricity.

“RECS effectively utilizes the Photon-Intermediate Direct Energy Conversion system,” Prelas said. “The system we are developing is mechanically simple, potentially leading to more compact, more reliable and less expensive systems.”

Presently, the only method to convert nuclear technology into electricity is through nuclear fission. In the process, water is heated to create steam. The steam is then converted into mechanical energy that generates electricity.

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