NASA debuts KRUSTY nuclear reactor for future Mars residents

January 19, 2018 by  
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Researchers at NASA , Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Department of Energy announced they have successfully tested a small nuclear reactor that may someday provide power to human habitats on Mars and beyond. Called Kilopower, or KRUSTY (Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology), the reactor comes in several versions to meet certain power needs, from 1 kilowatt (enough to power a small kitchen appliance) to 10 kilowatts, four or five of which would be required to provide power for a habitat on Mars. “Kilopower’s compact size and robustness allows us to deliver multiple units on a single lander to the surface that provides tens of kilowatts of power,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, during a press conference on Thursday . Kilopower could support manned missions to Mars in several ways. “We would need power on Mars for two primary reasons,” said Patrick McClure, Project Lead for Reactor Development at Los Alamos, in the video above . “The first is that astronauts need power for their habitat, so that they can make oxygen , purify water, but prior to their arrival, we need to make liquid oxygen and propellant so that they can get off the Martian surface.” Kilopower provides a fairly straightforward solution, requiring a minimal number of parts and thus lightweight, for the power needs of any planet-bound mission. Related: MIT’s winning solar-powered dome tree habitats for Mars mimic earthly forests The system works by incorporating steam-pipe technology, in which a sealed tube in a heat pipe circulates fluid throughout the reactor while generating heat . The heated fluid then travels to a Stirling engine, where it pressurizes gas to power a piston connected to a motor that generates electricity . Combining these parts makes for a reliable, simple device for providing power for all kinds of space missions. As for next steps, the research team intends to conduct a full-power test of their device in March. If all goes well, the sky may well be the limit for this compact powerhouse. Via Engadget and Space.com Images via NASA (1)

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NASA debuts KRUSTY nuclear reactor for future Mars residents

Researchers develop self-healing concrete powered by fungus

January 19, 2018 by  
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Scientists at Binghamton University have developed the first application of fungi in self-healing concrete. In a paper recently published in the journal Construction and Building Materials , Binghamton University assistant professor Congrui Jin and her team outline the ways in which a special species of fungi,  Trichoderma reesei , may act as a sealing agent when mixed with concrete . “This idea was originally inspired by the miraculous ability of the human body to heal itself of cuts, bruises and broken bones,” said Jin in an interview at Binghampton . “For the damaged skins and tissues, the host will take in nutrients that can produce new substitutes to heal the damaged parts.” Jin and her team’s focus on concrete could not be more topical. In the United States , a crisis fueled by historic underinvestment in infrastructure has resulted in increasingly dangerous roads, bridges, and highways. While Washington struggles to fund the federal government and state governments lack the resources to tackle this multi-trillion dollar problem, citizens still want something to be done before a major collapse occurs. “Without proper treatment, cracks tend to progress further and eventually require costly repair,” said Jin . “If micro-cracks expand and reach the steel reinforcement, not only the concrete will be attacked, but also the reinforcement will be corroded, as it is exposed to water, oxygen, possibly CO2 and chlorides, leading to structural failure.” Related: How fungi made Earth’s atmosphere livable – new study If concrete were easier to repair, the cost of infrastructure maintenance would likely decrease. This is where T. reesei steps in. The fungus is mixed with concrete and lies dormant until the first crack in newly laid concrete appears. As water and oxygen permeate the crack, fungal spores will germinate, expand, and create calcium carbonate to fill the crack. While the technology is still in its early phase, its successful small-scale application demonstrates that fungal self-healing concrete may fit right in someday soon. Jin said , “In my opinion, further investigation in alternative microorganisms such as fungi and yeasts for the application of self-healing concrete becomes of great potential importance”. Via Binghamton University Images via Jonathan Cohen/Binghamton University and Congrui Jin/Binghamton University

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Researchers develop self-healing concrete powered by fungus

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