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
an area in which
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
lethal doses of radiation from cosmic rays. He
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:
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.
- Solar flare protons (which would come in bursts following a solar flare)
- Galactic cosmic rays (a continuous background radiation)
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 |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )
Related News Stories -
Yes, But Do Astrobees Have Lasers For Lightsaber Training?
'... Ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.' - George Lucas, 1977.
Japan Uses Explosives On Asteroid
'...a tiny, rocket-powered projectile, drove towards the mysterious bulk. It hit, exploding into a cloud of incandescent vapour.' - EC Tubb, 1958.
Johns Hopkins Says Asteroid Deflection Will Be Difficult
'This obelisk is one huge deflector mechanism...' - Gene Roddenberry, 1968.
Hayabusa 2 To Begin Asteroid Mining
'We must dig down, and then doubtless we shall find the metal.' - Garrett P. Serviss, 1898.
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.
Can We Comprehend Deep Learning Systems?
'You’ve nothing remotely like it, so I can’t describe it to you.'
Skin Electronics Can Show Electrocardiogram
'... the young men in the streets who applied polyimde OLED body film to their bared shoulders.'
Chinese Fern Helps Remediate Arsenic Soil
'Bioengeering had put out a spec report on the long crawly things five months back.'
Skai Air Taxi Costs The Same As Uber
'The air-taxi found its way past and around other ground-cars...'
Neurodevices For Consumers? Neuroethicists (And Philip K Dick) Say 'Caveat Emptor'
'They tried to use it today and it wouldn't work. No colors and no ceph patterns, neither one...'
NASA 3D Printed Habitat Challenge Won By AI SpaceFactory
3D printing - on Mars!
The Future Of Elon Musk's Neuralink
'Cerebral Electromagnetic Emmission Amplification and Relay System — call it artificial telepathy, if you like.'
Researchers Make You Say Anything in Videos
'[It] caused his televised image... to mouth the vowels and consonants beautifully.'
Jeff Bezos Tries Waldoes (Robotic Hands)
'Waldo put his arms into the primary pair before him...'
Asimov and Musk - Boring Company Tunnel vs. Street Race
'There was almost no sound, just a steady velvety whirr as the taxi sped along.'
Project Dylan - Amazon's Voice-Activated Wearable That Recognizes Human Emotions
Life imitates anime art.
Tesla Diagnoses Itself, Sends Part Request
'Tentacles emerged from the side of the machine and felt puzzledly at the damaged area.'
Lilium Electric Air Taxi Prototype
'The air-taxi found its way past and around other ground-cars...'
Swedes Premiere T-Pod Driverless Electric Truck
'the trucks gulped packages and scurried like beetles...'
HEL TVD Laser System To Be Built By Dynetics Lockheed Martin
'Forthwith flashes of actual flame, a bright glare leaping from one to another, sprang from the scattered group of men.'
Alcarelle Synthetic Alcohol Like Star Trek Synthehol
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories