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Remove Small Ship Small Nuclear Reactors

Discussion in 'Suggestions and Feedback' started by Hellothere!, Dec 2, 2015.

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Do you think 1*1*1 reactors for small ships should be taken out?

  1. 1*1*1 batteries would be more realistic and useful =>Pro

    24 vote(s)
    27.0%
  2. Removing them would force me to adapt, but in the end SE would be a better game for it =>Pro

    6 vote(s)
    6.7%
  3. They are just too usefull to take out and a lot of my stuff would fall apart without them =>Contra

    31 vote(s)
    34.8%
  4. How dare you even suggest this =>Contra

    19 vote(s)
    21.3%
  5. Other (please specify and I'll add the option)

    9 vote(s)
    10.1%
Thread Status:
This last post in this thread was made more than 31 days old.
  1. EternityTide Senior Engineer

    Messages:
    1,950
    @Two You can't equate a nuclear bomb to a nuclear reactor in the sense that you are trying to. Nuclear bombs don't have to be controlled. They can just go boom when they are able to. Nuclear reactors don't have that luxury. The smaller a reactor is, the less efficient it is, and the more likely it will go boom if you push it too hard, because you will have to crank up the percentage U-235 in the fuel to get a decent reaction rate to provide the power you want.
    I'm famous on this forum for my mantra "Reactors do not explode", but they will if you miniaturise them, because in the process of miniaturising the reactor, the increased amount of U-235 present drags the reactors fuel requirements closer and closer to weapons grade uranium.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  2. SenorZorros Master Engineer

    Messages:
    7,063
    @Two, there is a difference between not impossible and plausible. it is not impossible that every poster on this forum would spontaneously disintegrate. however, the chance of that happening is about zero.
    with miniature reactors you could have a reaction in a 0,125m^3 cube but it would be hard to create, sustain, profit from and keep controlled. hard enough to make it practically impossible.

    on other words: probably is 0<something<<<<1
     
  3. Thales M. Senior Engineer

    Messages:
    1,005
    Alternative to removal of small ship small reactor it can be more inefficient than large reactor.
     
  4. Hellothere! Apprentice Engineer

    Messages:
    412
    There are several problems with that argumentation:

    The 2/3 estimation was already extremely generous. There are things called miniature reactors right now. Here an example. Please note that the reactor itself is ~20m high, and that's not counting the generator and cooling components that are even larger. Could you scale it down? Probably. But the uranium rods in those reactors are already about as small as they could theoretically be and you still need at least a bit of water around them. Please tell me how to cram that reactor into a 0.33m space.
    But let's suppose you have solved that problem. Here comes the next: Structural integrity. Uranium is heavy and the whole reactor needs to be relatively stable, because a hull breach can be disastrous. Since steel is still the primary construction element in SE the hull needs to have a certain thickness. This hull needs to be even thicker due to the radiation. If you don't mind dying and leave out the lead protection this means the radiation seeps through the hull at pretty much full strength. The thing is, radiation attacks steels (and all other materials) and makes it brittle over time. Thus you need to over engineer your hull to avoid having it break after a few week. That's another 3cm on each side gone, and again, that is if you calculate things extremely generously.
    This means that we have a 0.5m-0.33m-2*0.03m~11cm thick space left to fit in all the functional components.
    But wait, there's more! Let's talk about thermic shielding. The water inside a reactor is 500°C + degrees warm. You could probably keep it a but cooler if you don't mind loosing power, but not much. The electric generator next to it will need to be way cooler or it will break immediately. But even if you build a generator that functions at such temperatures, one part that definitely needs to stay cool is the condenser, because otherwise it won't do it's job. So you need another layer of thermic shielding between the reactor and the other components. Apply all stuff about active cooling and highly temperature resistant materials, extrapolate them generously into the future and you might make the shielding as thin as another 3cm.
    This means that we have a ~ 8cm thick space left for turbine, generator, cooling and condenser. Now, there are of course turbines and generators small enough to fit in there, even if they won't be all that effective. But remember what I said about radiation and the need for over engineering? Well, guess what is just 8cm thick and thus definitely has no room for over engineering? That's right, our generator and turbine!
    With how small they need to be the parts inside will have to be extremely thin, and thus even if you managed to build your generator, there is no way it would stay alive for more than a few weeks before your functional components break down.
    But let's say you don't mind changing parts in a highly radiated 500C° environment on a regular basis, then it might work, right?
    Well, no. You are still missing the cooling and condenser, and this is where things really fall apart. Because even if have all the ridiculously overpowered and improbable sci fi stuff needed to build the rest of the reactor, the cooling and condenser units still need to follow the laws of thermodynamics.
    And in order to cool the water down at the same rate the reactor heats it up you need a certain surface area. I'm not going to go into calculating the area needed, because the formulas are horrendously complex, especially with the many unknowns we are working with, but let's suffice to say that real life condensers in nuclear power plants usually have a size similar to the reactor itself, and due to material science they could not be shrunk down at the same rate.

    If our reactor space block was 1m*1m*1m, then I'd say that maybe, and just maybe, with a lot of sci fi stuff it might be possible somehow. But in just one eighths of that space it's just completely unrealistic.
     
  5. Two Apprentice Engineer

    Messages:
    300
    So you say that with what we know currently and the technology and materials we have currently, that is not possible. I fully agree. Do you think it is possible that someone comes up with solutions for some or all of those problems within the next 100 years? I guess maybe would be the correct answer.

    What we can do with nano-materials today are things that 30 years ago no one would have considered possible. But now we can do that. 50 years ago, a personal computer in the form and with the abilities of the one I am currently writing on would have been so extraordinarily impossible, that no one would have even considered it. 100 years ago most people didn't even have a car, or electricity. A lot can change in 100 years, too much to say that something is impossible just because right now I can't come up with a solution.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Hellothere! Apprentice Engineer

    Messages:
    412
    Yes, but at some point even computers can't shrink any more, since the electrons don't fit through the wires anymore. We are actually not all that far from that point. Computers will still be able get better, since there is a of potential in connecting things three dimensionally, but the transistors themselves can't become smaller than a certain degree.
    The calculations I just did were already with things pushed as small as physically possible. Building a reactor that small would be the same as trying to fit two litres of water into a one litre bottle. No matter the awesome materials you use for the bottle, the two litres just physically can't fit in.

    And then there is also the problem that the more sophisticated your technology is, the more vulnerable it becomes to radiation.
     
  7. Two Apprentice Engineer

    Messages:
    300
    You mean that point that has already been solved with quantum computers? Basically: if electrons don't fit any more, come up with something else instead.

    Same goes for your reactor: if it doesn't work the way you plan it, maybe all you need is a different perspective.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. EternityTide Senior Engineer

    Messages:
    1,950
    No... just... no.
    The difference between quantum computers and conventional computers is not what you seem to think it is. A quantum computer is not "just another, smaller computer", it's a completely different method of processing information. The only similarities between your conventional computer and a quantum computer is the fact that they process information.
    With nuclear reactors, there is a limit as to how small you can build them. Therefore, you switch to a different method of generating power to provide your requirements.
    A quantum computer to a conventional computer is what a ZPM is to a nuclear reactor.

    FYI, the reason for computers being unable to be miniaturised any further is because quantum tunnelling comes into effect with electrons, and transistors are no longer able to function effectively because logic gates get ignored by electrons which go straight through them - hence why we've come to a stop at about the 7 nm chips.
     
  9. Hellothere! Apprentice Engineer

    Messages:
    412
    Yeah, but in that case it wouldn't be a nuclear reactor any more. If you took out the uranium and made the reactor gain energy from thorium, palladium, elerium or unobtainium, than maybe you could build a reactor at that size. But a classical nuclear reactor that runs on the heat generated by a nuclear chain reaction in uranium cannot physically be that small.
     
  10. gothosan Junior Engineer

    Messages:
    723
    actually the real problem of regular computers is that you can't make a transistor smaller than a single atom of silicon therefore at that point moor's law break down and then the more memory/speed/functions you want to add to a computer will result in bigger and bigger machine.
    as of now a transistor made of single silicon atom has already been made but currently its not in production for computers so moor's law still apply and every two years a transistor size is halved while it become twice as better as previouse version which allow smaller electronices that are better than bigger, older versions.
    there are now few approaches to solve the silicon problem: Microsoft and Google both are building quantum based computers which have 4 bit states insted of two, and due to the laws of quantum physics (sorry if miss-spelled) they work far faster than digital computers.
    IBM on the other hand want to copy the way the human brain (and for that matter the brains of other biological creatures) work.
    the human brain has enough electricity to power a small light bulb but has processing capacity and memory far greater than digital computers.
    IBM is working now on a new coolant material that work as semi conductor to provide electricity to components while keeping them cool, much like the blood in our head provide everything the brain needs while removing the extra heat.
    this approach could allow at least for a while to continue building smaller computerized devices.
     
  11. tharkus Junior Engineer

    Messages:
    712
    im not for the "removing small ship reactor" BUT i like the idea the OP about small ship 1x1x1 batteries.
    that would let us do fancier stuff with battery fueled vehicles " the actual ones, i find them too big"
     
    • Like Like x 1
  12. EternityTide Senior Engineer

    Messages:
    1,950
    That isn't Moore's law. Moore's law is the prediction that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles every two years.
    Different kettle of fish altogether.
    Quantum computers work on very different principles to Classical computers, using different error correcting techniques and the fact that qubits can encode 2 classical bits into one qubit using superdense coding.
    The problem is, people think that quantum computers are just a slightly different version of classical computers - they aren't. Quantum computers Do not use transistors, at all. The equivalent of transistors in Quantum processors are the qubits themselves. You cannot equate a classical computer with a quantum computer. That's like comparing a sundial to an atomic clock. Both end up doing the same thing, but using vastly different processes and different degrees of accuracy and capacity.
    Now, back to nuclear reactors.
     
  13. gothosan Junior Engineer

    Messages:
    723
    number of transistors double every two years because their actual size is cut in half
     
  14. Two Apprentice Engineer

    Messages:
    300
    The point is: Quantum computers once we have them will radically change the entire IT sector. Suddenly calculations are possible that were unthinkable the year before. For example: many thing that are considered cryptographically safe today, will be completely unsecured the day quantum computers hit the shelves, forcing us to change so many things we consider granted today. And no one can even guess what else those things will make possible. We will be able to calculate things that were before considered physically impossible in a fraction of a second.

    And from the first PC to this, less than 100 years have been spent. So who tells me what the state of nuclear reactors will be in 100 years? The only honest answer can be: nobody know for sure.

    And that whole excerpt makes one thing very obvious: requesting 'realism' in games set far in the future is just plain wrong, because nobody can even guess what will be 'realistic' at that point in time.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  15. shirty Trainee Engineer

    Messages:
    6
    I put other, I agree that a nuclear reactor of this size is unrealistic but when you consider RTGs its kind of not far wrong its just labelled incorrectly.
    I think there's no reason to remove it but for realism it could just be renamed to RTG or similar with less power produced (suitable for just probes firing a single engine at a time).
    Also add in small batteries that store/produce more power than the RTG this would suit both game needs and what is possible IRL where probes use a battery to store power generated by the RTG to achieve processes that require bursts of power that are out of the scope of just RTG.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2015
  16. SenorZorros Master Engineer

    Messages:
    7,063
    @Two, slippery slope fallacy. furthermore we actually can predict quit a lot using this thing called science. the theory behind an 0,125 m^3 uranium reactor has been debunked.
    and there is indeed a reactor that will radically change the energy sector in the near future. it is called nuclear fusion and/or thorium. these reactors, especially fusion will both not fit into a 12,5 m^3 cube.
    also, we can predict the state of nuclear technology in the coming 50 years. not only does it rely on fairly well-understood technology, it also changes quite slowly due to it's complex, expensive and slightly dangerous* nature.
    and 50 years ago moore's law was formulate. so they were actually able to extrapolate...

    *these dangers can be dealt with quite easily as long as one knows what he's doing.

    @shirty, RTG's are a very good idea but they would function very different providing enough power to keep an antenna and a couple of lights alive.
     
  17. Two Apprentice Engineer

    Messages:
    300
    We'll speak about that in 100 years from now. I mark it in my calendar. ;)
     
    • Like Like x 1
  18. SyberSmoke Apprentice Engineer

    Messages:
    186
    For the RTG, that you could extrapolate reasonably that that in 60 years, some one found a better way to make a Thermocouple. Remember in an RTG the main limit on power conversion from Heat to Electricity is the thermocouple. The Uranium puts out plenty of heat, we just need to convert that energy into electricity with a higher efficiency. Given Space engineers reliance on kilowatts, a RTG could be said to, in the future) generate 50kW. Good enough for several purposes as long as your not trying to fly. That is what the small reactor is used for right now any way isn't it?
     
  19. Braethias Apprentice Engineer

    Messages:
    181
    Why does it have to be a battery? Why not say, an internal combustion engine? Can run off hydrogen!

    oh, derp. small ships work in space too. Uh. 1*1*1 battery then. AND allow ejectors to work as connectors. I seriously hate the giant connectors being the only way to charge small ships.
     
  20. Hellothere! Apprentice Engineer

    Messages:
    412
    This threat has you covered. We already had a few musings on fuel cells, which would probably meet your idea of a combustion engine. Those also work in space.

    @Sinbad also wrote a solution to your charging problem, which is to utilize the attach/detach function of rotors for charging. I tried it out today and it works like a charm.
     
  21. Sofa Apprentice Engineer

    Messages:
    152
    I still think hydrogen generators would be handy. Internal-combustion engines too, maybe - super efficient, but only work with oxygen.
     
  22. EternityTide Senior Engineer

    Messages:
    1,950
    You don't want to use Uranium for RTGs. Its half life, though long, means its power output is measly. You want Plutonium 238 for that. That has a healthy 0.54 Watts per kilogram power density.
     
  23. SyberSmoke Apprentice Engineer

    Messages:
    186
    True, or if we do not care about time scale and want pure power there are other isotopes like Americanium that has better output but a shorter life. I doubt that the devs will put in a measure of lifespan into it. Also the question would be would we need a new machine for Plutonium production or will we just fudge it with Uranium, a resource we have.
     
  24. EternityTide Senior Engineer

    Messages:
    1,950
    I'd go with introducing nuclear waste, as our nuclear reactors seem to magically transform 1kg of uranium into a very small amount of energy when in truth, total conversion of 1 kilo of Uranium would yield 8.98755179 × 10[sup]16[/sup] J of energy.
    You can extract plutonium from this waste in small amounts. Nuclear reprocessing would:
    A) add more versatility to the game
    B) add that extra bit of realism
    C) give us more materials to work with (e.g. depleted uranium, plutonium etc)
    D) open the opportunity to build endgame devices (come on, admit it, even you want nukes at some point)
     
  25. SyberSmoke Apprentice Engineer

    Messages:
    186
    Given how sketchy the physics is and that explosions cause lag...no not really.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2015
    • Disagree Disagree x 1
  26. briank Trainee Engineer

    Messages:
    34
    They should change the name to one of those nuclear batteries giving off trickle charge and nerf the output (but lasts longer) but not remove it.
    Also 1×1×1 batteries are needed. Making solor panels placable like glass pannels would be nice.
     
  27. Allammo Apprentice Engineer

    Messages:
    338
    Hell yeah! Wy bother with aiming? Nuke em all!
     
  28. SenorZorros Master Engineer

    Messages:
    7,063
    if it gets a name and model change I agree ;)

    @Nukes,
    I actually disagree. I'd prefer to not have them.
     
  29. EternityTide Senior Engineer

    Messages:
    1,950
    @SenorZorros I would just like to have a warhead that packs more punch. Mines in space are completely ineffective.
     
  30. SenorZorros Master Engineer

    Messages:
    7,063
    I don't mind bigger warheads. maybe some kind of combination of a moab and a shaped charge. but nukes seem a bit extreme. not only wouldn't I expect your average engineer to be able to acces the technology. nukes in space are actually outlawed by international treaties and even if they aren't setting one off would cause the whole universe to turn against you.
     
Thread Status:
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