Superconducting Magnetic Bubble To Protect Astronauts From Radiation

Using fields of force to accomplish goals in space is a favorite device of science fiction authors. In Larry Niven's award-winning 1970 novel Ringworld, protection against the harsh environmental hazards of space is provided by a hybrid system consisting of a General Products hull and the Slaver stasis field. The General Products hull is an example of a "passive" or material shielding; the hull is transparent to visible light and impervious to electromagnetic energy and matter in any form. The Slaver stasis field creates an area in which time does not pass; since time stands still, no damage can be done to the material occupying the space protected by the field.

Former astronaut Jeffery Hoffman is proposing a different sort of hybrid system to protect future astronauts; on long voyages through the solar system they will be exposed to lethal doses of radiation from cosmic rays. He has recieved funding from NASA through NIAC (NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts) to research the idea of a superconducting magnetic radiation shielding system to supplement (or replace) traditional passive shielding.


(From Magnetic Bubble)

The idea of using a magnetic field to shield a craft from radiation is not new; as Dr. Hoffman points out "the Earth has been doing it for billions of years!" Using magnetic shielding was proposed in the late 1960's, but not pursued after plans for further space exporation were scrapped.

Two types of radiation need to be addressed, according to William S. Higgins, an engineering physicist who works on radiation safety at Fermilab, the particle accelerator near Chicago, IL:

  • Solar flare protons (which would come in bursts following a solar flare)
  • Galactic cosmic rays (a continuous background radiation)
The easiest way to protect against this radiation is to absorb it. However, such shielding can be massive, and cosmic rays can interact with the shielding and create secondary charged particles, worsening the situation. The primary benefit of using magnetic shielding is to save on the mass required for traditional absorption technologies. The mass of the spacecraft, which must be lifted off from the Earth and placed in orbit, directly drives the cost of space systems. Reducing the amount of mass would make space exploration more affordable and therefore more sustainable over the long term.

Hoffman believes that the best solution may be a hybrid system using both a magnetic field and some passive absorbtion shielding. “That’s the way the Earth does it,” Hoffman explained, “and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to do that in space.”

A related experiment, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), is scheduled to be attached to the outside of the International Space Station and search for different types of cosmic rays. This experiment will be a practical test of maintaining the magnetic field strength and the near-absolute zero temperatures of this kind of system in space.

Phase I research studies the shielding efficiency of the baseline design, and would begin conceptual systems design. Phase II would provide a detailed comparison of magnetic shielding with traditional passive absorption technologies, and detail how to integrate the magnetic shield into a spacecraft.

If you are interested in another NASA proposal that was presaged in science fiction, see NASA's New Radiation Shielding First Proposed By John W. Campbell In 1936. Read more at Magnetic Bubble Could Protect Astronauts and Use of Superconducting Magnet Technology for Astronaut Radiation Protection (pdf).

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/14/2004)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Russian Space Garden
'We saw the gardens, flooded with artificial sunlight...' - Harley S. Aldinger, 1932.

Make Space Tools On The Spot (Like Moties)
'A moment ago it was squeezing silver toothpaste in a ribbon...' - Niven and Pournelle, 1974.

Bacteria Behave Differently In Space
'The Republic struggled to control its Sours...' - Bruce Sterling, 1985.

SpaceX Spacesuit Design Transmitted By Elon Musk
Welcome, SpaceX, to the club of space suit imaginers and makers.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

effie Automated Ironing Appliance
'Household Automata received an urgent task to develop production units of бытовые тканевые разглаживатели - a household fabric smoother.'

BabyX AI Real Enough For You
'...what's to keep me from showing face, Man? I'm showing a voice this instant... I can show a face the same way.'

We Could Downgrade Puerto Rico - And Thereby Save It
'It was cheaper to pay the refugees to go without up-to-the-minute equipment.'

Pegasus, Nvidia Supercomputer For Autonomous Driving
'...a 2045 convertible with a Hennis-Carleton positronic motor and an Armat chassis.'

Loihi Chip Mimics Human Brain's Neurons And Synapses
'You can hook a Thorsen tube into a control circuit... and the tube will "remember" what was done and can direct the operation...'

Self-Assembling Bacteria Build A Pressure Sensor
Nature is a master of fabricating structured materials consisting of living and non-living components.

3D Printed Artificial Muscles Are Stronger Than Yours
Bots don't need to work out.

Fog Computing (AKA Edge Computing) Ad Hoc Networks
'The tiny devices chirped their impulse codes at one another...'

Dubai Scorpion Police Hoverbike Ready To Pull Young Kirk Over
'Is there a problem, officer?'

Korean Tesla Model S Video 'Excelsior' Is Indeed Our Motto
'Improving man by bringing him close to Nature, while they combine the sensations of coasting with the interest of seeing the country well...'

HEXA Robotic Help For Plants
Then some unknown race had chanced upon the dreamers and decided to "help them out."

DIY Robot Shoots You In The Face
'...there were automatic guns that fired ligamine darts.'

A Bayesian Approach to Safe Imitation Learning For AIs and Robots
Um, how about that pension for the humans who serve as the models for robot behavior?

Qoobo Headless Robotic Therapy Cat Was Anne McCaffrey's Idea
'...used as surrogates in intense dependency cases.'

Autonomous Cars Talk To Each Other At MCity
'My cars talk to one another.'

PUFFER Robots - From Philip K DIck's Second Variety?
'Across the ground something small and metallic came, flashing in the dull sunlight of midday.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.