Outside a world of limited resources exists an infinite realm of possibility for technological and energy-related innovation in outer space. Although it sounds like a term from extraterrestrial-themed cinema, asteroid mining is quickly becoming an exceptional opportunity for companies eyeing these mineral-packed rocks for resource excavation and profit. Since the dawn of space exploration in the mid-twentieth century, the space industry has remained limited to funding for observational and academic use. However, recent space law legal discussion and the inception of cheaper mission plans funded by private companies are quickly altering this trend. The new possibilities of privatized space travel render the potential for economic opportunity, at the same time unlocking a virtually limitless supply of energy for further space exploration. While asteroid mining poses immensely promising prospects for companies seeking cheaper energy sources to benefit industries on Earth and beyond, it also raises the legal issue of the non-binding nature of international law. In a world consistently plagued by outbreaks of violence from colonization in every generation, asteroid mining perhaps sets a precedent for what could lead to this century’s ultimate power grab.
Asteroid mining is a reality projected to take full effect within a matter of decades. Metals like nickel and iron could be processed and refined while in orbit and used to build equipment or spacecraft at a much cheaper price than on Earth, where every launch out of the atmosphere requires substantial funding (1). The chemical and mineral composition of asteroids varies, with some containing platinum-group metals and others being rich in highly valued metals (2). The extraction of minerals from space could be a cheap enough process to bring them back to Earth for manufacturing industries, eventually reducing the environmentally harmful effects of excavating minerals underneath ecosystems. According to Ian Crawford, professor of planetary science at Birkbeck, London, asteroid miners would likely start mining water-ice in asteroids, which can be broken down into hydrogen for fuel and oxygen for supporting life on far-off space surfaces like Mars (1). Once asteroid mining begins, the industry must make incremental technological progress before it can expect to become economically viable in a more widespread way. Once asteroids can offer resources to make fuel in space, though, the industry itself becomes much cheaper to support and evolve, especially into fields such as robotics and artificial intelligence (1). In the meantime, these private companies are optimistic that the industry is already heading in the direction of affordability. According to Planetary Resources President and CEO Chris Lewicki, “Small teams of people can now do what it used to take entire governments to do and what used to take billions of dollars now only takes millions of dollars” (6).
Two of the major companies that have emerged in this asteroid mining industry are Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, two United States companies competing to be the first to commercially mine an asteroid. Planetary Resources is an asteroid mining company from Redmond, Washington, that aims to launch telescopes into space to analyze asteroids before crafts are sent out to mine them. The company, backed by Google co-founder Larry Page and billionaire businessman Ross Perot, is projected to operate in space as early as 2025 (1). Former Director of Space Policy for President Obama and current Vice President of Planetary Resources Peter Marquez noted the huge economic advantage of being able to excavate resources in space for extraterrestrial missions. “On Earth we sit at the bottom of a gravity well, and it takes enormous energy and expense to pull anything out into space,” he said. “About 10,000 dollars per pound [is needed] to break free of Earth’s gravity” (3). Conversely, one asteroid close to earth contains enough water to fuel all 135 space shuttle missions currently in orbit. Furthermore, iron, cobalt and nickel from asteroids can be converted into factory grade steel for much less than on Earth (3). Deep Space Industries claims it can launch all three of its Fireflies—small satellites that attach to rockets to search for minerals and ice—into space for $20 million by 2017. In comparison, NASA’s Osiris-Rex expedition aims to bring back two kilos of asteroid material by 2023; it is set to cost over $1 billion (1). Deep Space Industries also plans to send larger crafts for the harvest, transport, and storage of raw materials to be used in space and back on Earth. Both companies have lofty goals for the future, with Deep Space Industries CEO Daniel Faber asserting, “In 30 years’ time, the vision is to be building cities in space” (4).
Ongoing planning and deadlines for space missions have been bolstered recently by the Luxembourg government’s proclamation to be a European hub for futurist activity and stimulating economic growth through space exploration, intersecting the private and public sectors for increased probability of full materialization. According to the country’s deputy prime minister, Étienne Schneider, the aim is “to open access to a wealth of previously unexplored mineral resources, on lifeless rocks hurtling through space, without damaging natural habitats” (2). This conviction is backed by the partnership between Luxembourg’s SpaceResources.lu initiative and Planetary Resources, which hopes to synthesize both entities’ technologies and lines of business towards the full utilization of resources from asteroids (5). In fact, the government of Luxembourg made a direct capital investment in Planetary Resources Luxembourg of $227 million. This contribution will fund research of commercially viable near-Earth asteroids, as well as explore transformative technologies applicable to global markets in agriculture, oil and gas, water quality, and financial intelligence industries (5). Planetary Resources, backed by Luxembourg, is launching its next spacecraft, Arkyd-6, later this year and plans to obtain important data related to the presence of water and water-bearing minerals on asteroids via thermographic sensor (5). Luxembourg’s mission to spearhead a national effort of space exploration and asteroid mining poses a twofold implication. On the one hand, it demonstrates the potential for a country to profit off resources from outer space. On the other hand, Luxembourg’s goal may threaten the conservation of space as a nationless place of curiosity and respect.
Since 1967, outer space has remained void of claims to sovereignty, colonization, or profit. This remains one of the most pressing challenges for companies sponsoring asteroid mining, which needs regulations on stakes to claim these resource hub rocks hurtling through space. The Outer Space Treaty of that year was passed largely amidst Cold War hostility, when the “space race” between the Soviet Union and the United States demonstrated the technological capabilities of both powerhouses and, in turn, warned of the threat to world security if one or both entities were to proliferate in the event of war. The Outer Space Treaty (OST) decreed that outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, “is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty” (1). The stipulations of the treaty ban any forms of competitive economic activity over extraterrestrial resources and aims to ensure that space will never become a platform for a potential economic monopoly or worse, a war zone. Any sort of law passed to allow privatized missions to space would require the enforcement of mining rights through a national court exercising sovereign rights to contravene the OST (1). Thus, while the technological innovation for widespread asteroid mining looks promising, the legal barriers could create security conflict in the attempts of various entities backed by sovereign countries to bypass the treaty.
This lack of existing international, binding legal framework with space law has been partially mitigated by President Obama’s signing of the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. This law recognizes the right of US citizens to own the asteroid resources they obtain and encourages the commercial exploration of resources from asteroids (7). Like Luxembourg, the United States is stating its desire to promote the growth of its economy by expanding into the solar system. Marco Rubio, a Republican congressman from Florida, was integral in the legislative effort, as Florida houses both Cape Canaveral and a large space exploration community. The law discourages government barriers to the development of economically viable, safe, and stable industries for commercial exploration and recovery of space resources, which asteroid mining hopes to do. The problem with the updated US law to “possess, own, transport, use, and sell” extraterrestrial resources without violating national law is that it still violates the Outer Space Treaty, which was made to prevent exacerbating international conflicts like the ones found on Earth—the South China Sea conflict and tensions with China and Russia as of late, for example. The delicate balance that exists between Obama’s new law, which lacks much regulation, and the OST, which definitively prohibits privatized missions, could dive into a tailspin if enough competing companies enter the space realm for the same resources.
Planetary Resources CEO Chris Lewicki claims that the resources excavated from asteroid mining will give companies on Earth a “permanent foothold in space in the 21st century” (6). Co-founder and co-chairman Peter H. Diamandis remarks, “A hundred years from now, humanity will look at this period in time as the point in which we were able to establish a permanent foothold in space” (7). To what extent is this potential “permanent foothold” a security concern? The privatization of space mining, as with any other industry in the past, inevitably will lead to incidents of abuse and monopolization. In the past, economic exploitation has led to tensions and security concerns as people fight for limited resources in a land of unlimited wants. Every land or power grab in history has spawned both winners and losers, with both short and long-term effects. What happens when one company implements an expensive technology to bring an asteroid closer to Earth? In space, there is the caveat of virtually infinite resources, so long as companies and countries are able to continue evolving to make further space travel cheaper and quicker if asteroid resources around Earth were ever to start diminishing. Obama’s Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act lacks any regulatory measures to avoid such complications. J.L. Galache, astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, voices the ethical argument that “the solar system should be left pristine, like a national park or monument while others see it as resources to be used” (4). From this initial debate of conservation versus exploitation comes the secondary debate on how to regulate the different countries and companies vying for the same processes and technologies. In order for asteroid mining to have a productive and fair start, more binding regulations must be placed in the realm of international law to prevent the kinds of security concerns that erupt on Earth.
(1) Davies, Rob. "Asteroid Mining Could Be Space's New Frontier." The Guardian. The Guardian News and Media Limited, 6 Feb. 2016. Web. 23 Aug. 2016.
(2) Siddique, Haroon. "Luxembourg Aims to Be Big Player in Possible Asteroid Mining." The Guardian. The Guardian News and Media Limited, 3 Feb. 2016. Web. 24 Aug. 2016.
(3) Herkewitz, William. "The Biggest Barrier to Asteroid Mining Isn't Technical, It's Legal." Popular Mechanics. Hearst Communications, Inc., 16 Aug. 2016. Web. 24 Aug. 2016.
(4) Stirone, Shannon. "Where No Miner Has Gone Before." New Republic. New Republic, 23 Aug. 2016. Web. 2016.
(5) "Planetary Resources And The Government Of Luxembourg Partner To Advance The Space Resource Industry." Planetary Resources. Planetary Resources Media, 13 June 2016. Web. 28 Aug. 2016.
(6) Gorey, Colm. "How Asteroid Mining Could Be a Future Gold Rush." Silicon Republic. Silicon Republic, 15 Aug. 2016. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.
(7) "President Obama Signs Bill Recognizing Asteroid Resource Property Rights into Law." Planetary Resources. Planetary Resources Media, 25 Nov. 2015. Web. 23 Aug. 2016.
Image: © Jeff Dubay | Dreamstime.com - Meteor and Distant Star
Ocean energy technology, a largely untapped resource until recently, has emerged as a practical and potentially more reliable form of natural renewable energy than wind or solar. With Europe and North America taking the lead in research, and Australia launching hefty projects of its own, the process of harnessing wave energy into generating electricity is gaining traction among investors and coastal companies in the process of constructing wave farms. Ocean waves contain massive amounts of potential energy that are highly consistent and predictable. With cheaper operational costs and more widespread implementation, wave energy mechanisms could power electricity for many coastal towns and provide a major source of energy generation in the race to convert to sustainable power options.
Although wave technology has been traced back for decades, intense research has only sparked recently out of practicality and benefits that could eventually challenge solar and wind energy. The first wave energy demonstration devices were deployed in the 1970s, but progress stagnated until recent renewed interest. Currently, there are over 200 different wave energy converters (WEC) in various stages of development, from the United Kingdom in particular and recently Australia. The types of WEC can be grouped into three classes: point absorbers, attenuators and terminators (1). Point absorbers are small devices that extract wave energy from all directions underwater. Attenuators are jointed and longer than the wave, thereby extracting wave energy through movement of the different parts. Overtoppers are large in size and face directly into the wave for greatest impact. Popular Mechanics recently featured some of the most impressive models of wave technology to date, each of which utilized different mechanical functions to acquire energy. The Pelamis Wave Energy Convertor by Pelamis Wave Power, for example, is dubbed “sea snake” because it is comprised of four big cylinders strung together by hydraulic joints that bounce with the waves (2). This movement pumps oil through hydraulic motors that drive generators to produce electricity. Another, the GreenWave by Oceanlinx, consists of an underwater tunnel that floods with incoming waves and compresses air inside the cabins, making it rush out the air vent and harnessing energy. The United States Air Force Academy developed a device as well, called The Terminator. This one, using ideas from airplane design, utilizes wing-shaped turbine blades that force water to flow faster over one side than the other, creating different pressures on each surface and lifting towards the low-pressure side. The engineer and owner of Terminator asserted that this lift technology rather than drag, or brute force of the water, allows for the device to capture 99% of the wave’s energy (2).
According to the energy division of the European Commission for Research and Innovation, an estimated 0.1% of the energy in ocean waves could supply the entire world’s energy requirements five times over (3). This conversion process can take several forms, including tidal and marine energy, wave energy, difference of temperature and salinity energy, and is comparable to the energy used in hydroelectric power plants. Although the European Commission has been funding research in ocean energy technology since the late 1980s with its 2nd Framework Programme, funds increased substantially since 2002. Projects that have totaled over 55 million euros in government funding are continuing to work towards developing more cost-efficient floating devices, designing less intrusive off-shore conversion platforms, and strategizing for ocean energy and coordinating activities (3). The European Union, pressed to meet ambitious renewable energy standards by 2020, has been promoting Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, or OTEC. This utilizes the difference of temperature between cold, deep seawaters and warm, shallow ones to create a thermodynamic cycle that produces electricity (3). Other research funded by the EU includes using the difference in salinity between seawater and freshwater in coastal regions to create a pressure difference engineers can then exploit for energy extraction.
Because wave technology energy is still relatively new outside of theory, new companies can still enter the market by introducing new technologies that reduce cost, space, and hassle. Regionally, the market for wave energy has been segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and ‘Rest of the World’ (4). Current funding for ocean energy includes a major backing by the European Commission for Research and Innovation that aims to improve non-technical barriers, such as politics and garnering community support. Two of the commission’s majorly funded projects currently are CORES and EquiMar. CORES, which stands for Components for Ocean Renewable Energy Systems, concentrates on power-take-off, control, moorings, risers, data acquisition and instrumentation based on floating systems (5). EquiMar, on the other hand, deals with the ambitious goal of standardizing the evaluation of different marine energy converters, as some are based on tidal energy and others use actual wave energy (5).
Aside from public funding, European companies focused on wave energy have taken major strides in recent years. Leading company Scotrenewables, based out of the Orkney Islands in Scotland, is using a unique floating tidal technology designed to minimize installation and operational costs. Founded in 2002, Scotrenewables has developed models that utilize two propellers that fold up when being towed for manufacturing and transferability benefits. Its first fully functioning prototype, the SR250, was so successful that the company was able to showcase the larger SR2000 by June of this year, with further technological improvements and full implementation to come by 2017 (6). Deemed by the European Marine Energy Centre as the world’s biggest and most powerful tidal turbine, the SR2000 towers at 550 tons and 64 meters. Seatricity Limited, a wave energy business based out of Falmouth in the United Kingdom, deployed a full scale prototype named Oceanus 2, a wave energy convertor buoy that has been in progress since mid-May. The promise with this technology lies in its mechanical simplicity, as it links buoys together to maximize the latent power of the oceans’ waves (7). Beyond Seatricity’s simplicity is the support it has garnered from one of the United Kingdom’s most esteemed maritime locations, the Falmouth Wharves, which houses Oceanus 2. The Falmouth Wharves has been a strategically and historically important site, from its 18th century naval beginnings to its present role as a commercial maritime resource (8).
At present, ocean energy only covers around .02% of European energy needs, and the industry has several gaps to close before attaining a clear path to widespread implementation (9). While the United Kingdom and Scotland have taken the lead, Portugal had three machines installed as well in its Agucadour Wave Farm. However, due to technical problems, the facility was shut down only two months later, demonstrating the need for further research and improved engineering (9). Despite this setback, the European Union has maintained its goal made in 2008 to install 25 additional machines that will create an energy farm generating ten times the amount of energy as the devices at present. For years, wave energy has faced issues with investors, who are much more willing to invest in the better researched, more widespread wind and solar energy sources. Despite the ubiquity of waves, it also presents a mathematical challenge, which makes investors less likely to trust the feasibility of a widespread plan more cost-effective than other popular renewable energy solutions. George Hagerman, research associate at Virginia Tech University’s Advanced Research Institute, explained, “With wind, you’re harnessing the energy as a function of the speed of the wind. In wave energy, you’ve not only got the height of the wave, but you’ve got the period of the wave, so it becomes a more complicated problem” (10). This added factor inhibits the feasibility of the planning phase, the period in which investor backing is crucial.
Australia has made a breakthrough in wave energy technology with the knowledge that its southern shores were extremely conducive to generating electricity. According to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, Australia’s Carnegie Wave Energy Project set a new world record in early June of this year after completing 14,000 cumulative operating hours, provided by $40 million in funding the cost of the project (11). Carnegie Wave’s technology was the world’s first line of wave power generators to connect to an electricity grid—ideal for a country with around 80% of its population living on the coast. In a study entitled “The potential of wave energy” by Hayward and Osman, much of the world’s coastal waters that have the wave power densities great enough for extracting wave energy are found on Australia’s southern coastlines and Tasmania’s western shore (12). Using what the journal article called the “levelised cost of electricity” based on wave energy convertor and Australia resource data, wave energy in those locations could be as low as $100 per megawatt hour. The major costs the study found involved operational ones like anchoring and mooring, as well as minimizing risk from aggressive storm waves. Australia’s government recently declared its intention to have wave energy supply at least 5% of Australia’s total grid by 2050 (12).
Marine institutes and university departments have expressed concern over implications for marine life around wave farms, which would need to take up substantial space given current plans and mechanisms to provide enough energy to render the projects worthwhile. According to the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University, wave energy converters reduce the amount of ocean energy in near-shore waters. This factor, in addition to the physical one of having large objects lodged throughout coastal ecosystems, can change current patterns and water mixing, thus introducing foreign species and clearing out others (13). It can also shift food delivery patterns and rates, tamper with egg and sperm mixing, disperse spores and larvae, and vary temperature differently throughout the water depth column. On the one hand, this tampering with ocean environments can severely disrupt the ecosystems of the offshore organisms. On the other hand, though, the energy center acknowledges that the eventual adaptation of the wave energy devices into the ocean environments can provide artificial reefs for creatures whose natural habitats have been largely destroyed.
Wave energy no doubt has serious potential for providing electricity in coastal areas around the world. Funding, support, and ingenuity in recent years have inspired vastly different types of convertors and methods of improving upon them, demonstrating promise of adaptability and perhaps catering different devices to different regions based on feasibility. Despite the enormous amount of potential energy in waves, with astounding numbers claiming to be able to power entire countries, the actual convertible energy in the current models remain quite small. Wave farms in the ocean provide the benefit of not intruding upon land in the way we see wind farms and solar devices, but storms also complicate feasibility and risk financially devastating damages. Without a method of consistency among the different types of wave converters, it may be difficult to determine which of the models can be standardized and cheaply made for widespread use. Nonetheless, leading companies remain optimistic of the potential for wave energy and have given reason in recent years to believe that the industry is rapidly expanding and improving. If wave energy companies can meet projected rates of conversion to usable energy per wave and do so in an economic way, that could seriously challenge other contenders in the renewable energy field.
(1) Hayward, Jenny and Peter Osman. “The potential of wave energy.” Garnaut Review. CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship Ltd., 2011. Web. 4 August 2016.
(2) Fecht, Sarah. "Wave Power: 5 Bright Ideas to Capture the Ocean's Energy." Popular Mechanics. Hearst Communications, Inc., 05 Apr. 2011. Web. 04 Aug. 2016.
(3) "Introduction to Ocean Energy." European Commission for Research and Innovation: Energy. European Commission, 2015. Web. 4 Aug. 2016.
(4) Smith, Sarah. "Wave and Tidal Energy Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2016 - 2024." PR Newswire. PR Newswire Association, LLC, 2 Aug. 2016. Web. 03 Aug. 2016.
(5) "Current Funding for Ocean Energy.” European Commission for Research and Innovation: Energy. European Commission, 2015. Web. 4 Aug. 2016.
(6) “Scotrenewables Tidal Power." The European Marine Energy Centre. The European Marine Energy Centre Ltd., 2016. Web. 4 Aug. 2016.
(7) Ewens, Graeme. " Insight for the European Commercial Marine Business." Maritime Journal. Mercator Media Ltd., 28 July 2016. Web. 03 Aug. 2016
(8) Ewens, Graeme. "Deepwater wharves safeguarded for marine usage.” Maritime Journal. Mercator Media Ltd., 28 July 2016. Web. 03 Aug. 2016.
(9) Gleich, Amy. "Five Companies Riding the Wave of Ocean Energy." OilPrice.com. Merchant of Record: A Media Solution, 02 Aug. 2014. Web. 04 Aug. 2016.
(10) "Technical Background of Ocean Energy.” European Commission for Research and Innovation: Energy. European Commission, 2015. Web. 4 Aug. 2016.
(11) Hill, Joshua S. "Australia’s Carnegie Wave Energy Project Sets World Record." CleanTechnica. Sustainable Enterprises Media, Inc., 02 June 2016. Web. 03 Aug. 2016.
(12) Hayward, Jenny and Peter Osman. “The potential of wave energy.” Garnaut Review. CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship Ltd., 2011. Web. 4 August 2016.
(13) "Effects on the Environment." Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center. Oregon State University, 2016. Web. 03 Aug. 2016.
Image: © Vachiraphan Phangphan | Dreamstime.com - <a href="https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-power-generators-water-using-tidal-generation-larger-machines-image30729646#res14972580">Power generators with water.</a>
Imagine taking the heat waste from high-generating power plants and converting that material back into electricity. In the realm of thermoelectrics, this process has become a reality in the world of research and startups. With the increasing need to be more efficient and cost-effective with energy in the public and private sectors, full implementation of this technology could significantly reduce wasteful emissions from power plants and recycle more of the energy that is released in industries. Although the process of converting heat energy to electricity is nothing novel, the process has never been widespread because of the complicated adjustments to temperature that need to be made depending on level of output and the low level of electricity that is actually retained from waste compared to the cost needed to produce it.
Additionally, this kind of technology is slow to reach the markets and produces profit at a much slower pace as it gets integrated into the community of energy technology. These factors have rendered the process unappealing to investors and thus hindered significant funding until recently, when collective urgency emerged from international conferences like the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) that have made public and private sectors alike impose regulations that more strictly limit energy waste and stress renewability and sustainability. Now, startups like Alphabet Energy and RedWave Energy, as well as research labs from Yale and University of Florida, have piqued public interest with cheaper and more effective methods by which to capture more heat waste from power plants for electricity. With increased interest in viable options to cut back on energy waste quickly, thermoelectric technology is emerging with great promise.
In the world of startups, several noteworthy companies are making substantial progress in the effectiveness of thermoelectrics, making great strides in being more readily available to industries as they are backed by seven figure investments. A thermoelectric is a material that turns heat into electricity. The concept itself is straightforward and is already used in capacities besides renewable energy. NASA, for example, uses thermoelectrics to power spacecraft, but the practice is much too expensive to be translated to smaller businesses with power plants. Matt Scullin, the founder of startup Alphabet Energy, was inspired to found the company from Michigan State University’s development that improves upon existing thermoelectric technology, using the compound tetrahedrite to make the process more efficient and cheap (1). With a combination of materials science and mechanical engineering, Alphabet Energy uses thermoelectric PowerCards that acquire power through various heat sources, like the exhaust stack of a coal-burning power plant. The volume of waste emitted from a particular power source determines the number of PowerCards required to maximize heat waste capture. From there, Alphabet moved into the next phase of development to produce a more advanced Power Generating Combustor (PGC) system, which generates electricity from natural gas flaring (2). The PGC system, backed with a $23.5 million investment from Schlumberger Limited, is projected to eventually eliminate the need for diesel and natural gas-powered generators, as well as electrical grid connections. The company hopes to be able to embed its technology in vehicle engines and diesel generators. In this way, Alphabet Energy is making progress not only in reducing waste from currently operating power plants, but also through developing completely new methods of acquiring renewable energy. Alphabet Energy’s technology expansion has led it to open an office in Houston, where it will seek to maintain pace with the industry demand for remote power generation solutions (2).
RedWave Energy is another up and coming startup that differs from Alphabet in that it targets low-temperature heat waste, which expands the types of power plants that can benefit from thermoelectric technology. The Chicago-based company uses flexible sheets of metal covered with tiny antennas that transform heat into electricity for temperatures between 70 and 250 degrees Celsius (3). To date, RedWave states that no other company has managed to acquire heat waste at a competitive level for that temperature range. The microantennas in RedWave’s technology captures electromagnetic radiation of heat the same way television and radio antennas capture electromagnetic waves. RedWave recently received millions of dollars from celebrity couple Will and Jada Smith’s foundation, as well as a $3 million grant from the Department of Energy’s early-stage high-risk energy program called ARPA-E (4). Earlier this month, RedWave’s Series B round of its technology closed and beta testing is expected to begin within a year before hitting the market. An additional benefit to RedWave’s technology besides the lower temperature allowance is the collaboration of research occurring nationwide, demonstrating how interdisciplinary approaches in energy technology are leading to quicker and potentially very lucrative solutions. The Idaho National Lab helped develop the nanoantenna technology, while professors at the University of Colorado-Boulder designed the technology that funnels the electrons off the antenna (4). Furthermore, a Cambridge, Massachusetts manufacturer is helping make the nanoantenna-filled film. This integration of intellectual capital is paving the way for staggering advances over a relatively short period of time.
Beyond startups, the academic community is providing the theoretical models needed to maximize accuracy and reduce technical error for when products hit the market. Two physicists from the University of Florida, for example, are further developing nanowire technology to recover heat waste on the engines of ships and manufacturing refineries in addition to power plants (5). They are also studying the complexity of thermoelectric device requirements for different conditions depending on the temperature gradient between two leads, for different electrical loads, or the amount of power being consumed at a given moment. Their research is spearheading efficient devices that soon can become more widespread. Engineers and researchers at Yale University’s Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering have developed a new technology using low-temperature waste heat to generate power, a concept popularized in the private sector by RedEnergy that Yale hopes to improve. Combined heat and power (CHP) technology uses high-temperature waste heat, and is already used in the United States, contributing to around 12% of the country’s total electricity according to Inside Energy (6). Unlike CHP technology, though, low heat fully operates even with heat source fluctuations. The Yale researchers published their “nanobubble membrane” development in the Nature Energy journal on June 27, describing how the mechanism traps tiny air bubbles underwater and creates water flow through temperature adjustment (6). These technological improvements from esteemed scientists demonstrate how the field possesses great academic rigor in addition to being fiscally promising in the private sector.
With warnings about climate change reaching governments in effective ways, thermoelectric technology could provide a promising solution to the energy crisis in the near future. The European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive entailed that members of the European Union should be producing 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 (7). This, combined with other initiatives like the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, demonstrate the need for industries to significantly alter the way they treat energy if goals are to be met at proposed deadlines. Dr. Zulfigar of Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom is working on heat transfer and fluid dynamics as part of his overarching goal of creating better forms of energy reserves. His approaches involve materials sciences, heat and fluids within heat transfer and thermodynamics, and storage and corrosion engineering (7). Improvements in the field of thermoelectrics show immense promise in reducing the amount of waste produced in society, one that requires massive amounts of energy that is at present unsustainable for much longer. Waste heat levels that can be recovered in the United States alone are estimated to be high enough to power tens of millions of households (8). The integration of heat recovery from power plant waste into standard building practices and power generators has the potential to provide a widespread, effective solution to curbing excessive energy production. “Our energy reserves used at our current rates will last us perhaps another 50 to 60 years for oil and gas, and coal another 100 years,” Dr. Khan stated when discussing his research. “What are we going to do when that runs out?” Fortunately, thermoelectric technology is providing a viable answer in the making.
(1) Palca, Joe. "A Lot Of Heat Is Wasted, So Why Not Convert It Into Power?" NPR. NPR, 20 Aug. 2015. Web. 27 July 2016.
(2) NGI Staff Reporters. "Natural Gas Intelligence Is a Leading Daily Provider of Natural Gas Prices, Natural Gas News, and Gas Pricing Data to the Deregulated North American Natural Gas Industry." NGI's Shale Daily. Natural Gas Intelligence, 13 July 2013. Web. 27 July 2016.
(3) Fehrenbacher, Katie. "This Startup Is Using Tiny Antennas To Capture Waste Heat." Fortune. Fortune, 19 July 2016. Web. 27 July 2016.
(4) Marotti, Ally. “RedWave Raises $5.5 Million to Turn Heat into Electricity.” Chicagotribune.com. Chicago Tribune, 21 July 2016. Web. 27 July 2016.
(5) Zyga, Lisa. "New Device May Make Converting Waste Heat to Electricity Industrially Competitive." Phys.org. Science X Network, 21 May 2016. Web. 27 July 2016.
(6) Butao, Sarene Mae. "Energy From Low-Temperature Heat Waste Can Now Be Used In Producing Power, Yale Researchers Developed A Way." University Herald RSS. University Herald, 04 July 2016. Web. 27 July 2016.
(7) Bournemouth University. "Developing Reliable Renewable Energy Sources." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 July 2016. Web. 27 July 2016.
(8) Butao, Sarene Mae. "Energy From Low-Temperature Heat Waste Can Now Be Used In Producing Power, Yale Researchers Developed A Way." University Herald RSS. University Herald, 04 July 2016. Web. 27 July 2016.
Image: © Bidouze Stéphane | Dreamstime.com - <a href="https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-pollution-dead-tree-image4632517#res14972580">Pollution and dead tree</a>
Earlier this year, Honda Motor Co. made a breakthrough as the world’s first company to develop a hybrid car motor without using heavy rare earth metals, a group of elements previously monopolized by China that pose extensive environmental concerns during the conversion process. This move represents important environmental security implications for industries within the United States and its allies, including reducing resource dependence on China and seeking alternative forms of energy for high-tech, military, and other energy industries. Given the increasing militarization of China, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, as well as the continued ideological clash between centrally planned and free market economies, the need for reduced dependence on China for consumer goods has never been more pressing. With the functions of rare earth metals needed across such a wide variety of industries, this shift has renewed interest in domestic production and pushed cost-effective, environmentally friendly options in a world that has seen this type of progress mired in bureaucracy and conservative pushback for decades. The improvement of rare earth metal extraction processes and the development of substitute methods pose the long-term solution of protecting and diversifying the resources used in industries. Indirectly, these changes can produce more environmentally friendly methods and encourage swift, targeted change towards this goal.
Rare earth metals are a group of 17 relatively unknown elements at the bottom of the periodic table that are chemically similar and essential to the manufacture of many high-tech products like cell phones and laptops, as well as various military and renewable energy technologies. Despite the name, these metals are actually quite abundant in nature, according to the British Geological Survey and Royal Society of Chemistry. However, they are found in tiny amounts in rocks, mixed with other elements that need to be mined and separated, a complex and often hazardous process (1). These metals are nearly ubiquitous in everyday life, causing the refinery process to be heavily researched and funded. For example, neodymium is used in the powerful magnets that power loudspeakers, computer hard drives, wind turbines and hybrid cars. Gadolinium is used in X-ray and MRI scanning systems, while yttrium, terbium, and europium are found in control rods in nuclear reactors (2). The omnipresent nature of these metals in basic and advanced technological products render them a necessity for countries like the United States and Japan, creating an uncomfortable dependency on places like China that have control over essential components of these products.
The actual process of removing ores, the natural material from which elements can be extracted, is highly disruptive and detrimental to the environment because waste seeps into surrounding areas during every step of the mining process. The excavation of rare earth metal elements requires open pit mining, which can destroy thriving ecosystems existing on the ground atop the mines and contaminate the air with radionuclides, rare earth elements, and dust containing traces of metal (3). After the physical acquisition of the metals, the refinery process allows metal byproducts to enter the atmosphere, ground, and water sources near the mine; these contaminants are nearly impossible to remove. At the end of the process, disposal proves problematic as well, as the tailings stockpiles consisting of small waste particles can be absorbed into the water and ground. Politics aside, the environmental concerns for the present process of making rare earth metals ready for industrial use become amplified, as countries accustomed to outsourcing to China do not deal with these consequences on their home turf.
For several decades, China has held a monopoly over rare earth metals, due to the natural abundance in the country and low export prices. In fact, China’s grip on the industry was so great that factories in the United States and elsewhere virtually disappeared completely, with the large Colorado-based Molycorp, Inc. closing down its earth mine in California in 2002 over economic and environmental concerns (4). But with recent restrictions on production and exports, industries that have become reliant on China for the necessary elements have been forced to seek alternatives. Since the 1980s, China invested in hundreds of mining and refinery companies and has since become the biggest producer of these elements, possessing more than 95% of the share of the global market (5). Former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping once remarked that rare earth metals in China would be analogous to oil in Saudi Arabia. With technological innovation rapidly increasing in the first millennial decade, the use of rare earth metals saw a spike, rising to three times the use in the decade before, with 125,000 metric tons of material extracted (6). Then, in 2010, China announced that it was restricting the metals for environmental reasons, leading to a widespread panic among leading electronics and car companies and accusations from Washington that China was hoarding its resources (7). Later that year, China halted rare earth metal exports to Japan after a territorial dispute involving the South China Sea. The following year, China capped off production at 93,800 metric tons and cut materials exports by 10% worldwide. These lowered quotas spiked prices as much as 600% (8). In a move that reflects China’s centrally planned economy, the country’s rare earths industry intends to consolidate all 208 officially recognized rare earth mines and refineries into its three large base metal companies: Baosteel, Jiangxi Copper, and Chalco.
As a result of China’s abrupt actions, public and private sectors worldwide responded to avoid the crippling effects of an overreliance on China’s environmental resources for leading industries. Japan, whose industries in electronics and mechanical engineering rely heavily on those metals in their products, promptly made a deal with Mongolia after the 2010 export ban. The deal entailed Japanese firms assisting in the search and production of rare earth metals there (9). Additionally, Japan agreed to subsidize the mining in mineral-rich Kazakhstan to drive down costs for end-user production companies. On the private sector side, Japan’s Nippon Steel and South Korea’s Posco and National Pension Service bought shares of a Brazilian rare metal mining company to secure supplies. Australia’s Arafura Resources Limited raised 1 billion Australian dollars to fund its rare earth project, which aims to produce 22,000 tons from its mine annually in the Northern Territory. Leading up to the recent new Honda model that does not require heavy rare earth material, Japanese manufacturers had been working at swift development for hybrid cars and air conditioners that do not rely on the rare earth metals in the production process (10).
Domestic energy creation translates into wealth creation. For the United States in particular, the rare earth metals industry could be reinvigorated in the country with substantial domestic benefits, and has the potential to start a trend reversing the outsourcing of manufacturing. Jack Lifton, a global expert on rare earth metals, asserts that the need for reinstating a rare earth elements industry base in the United States will require rebuilding intellectual capital (11). According to him, the rare earth metals industry is one of many industries in which the United States has fallen behind, to the point of needing to learn what was lost between the time manufacturing ceased and the present. Since the industry base was essentially gone by the turn of the century, when nearly all rare earth metal production was outsourced to China, the engineers specializing in the separation of those elements from ore either relocated or pursued different fields. Lifton argues that California mines at full capacity provide far more rare earths than the United States needs, allowing them to make profit off exports to the rest of the world. Despite China’s current claim of 95% monopoly over the industry, a US Geological Survey reported that the country actually has around 52% of the world’s known rare-earth reserves. Moreover, the United States is believed to have the second-largest share at around 3%, and Russia and Australia fall not far behind (12). For a country that has seen its manufacturing industries disappear over the past several decades, reinstating one that has ubiquitous uses in technological products could mean remarkable economic progress and resource security.
This base of intellectual capital to which Lifton refers is already in the making, as cutting edge research aims to find cost-effective and environmentally friendly new methods for rare earth metals quickly. One such process in the works is the laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry technology, which analyzes new and old rocks from the tailings waste to assess whether or not they are fit for reuse (13). Additionally, the US Department of Energy has funded a $3.3 million project at Northeastern University for the lab of Laura Lewis, professor of chemical engineering. The lab is researching how to synthesize a new super magnet developed in 2012 that is free of rare earths that could be mass produced for a market worth $20 billion a year. “We seek to produce nanostructured permanent magnets that produce anisotropies and energy products that are comparable to those of the current supermagnets using only cheap, abundant and more sustainably-produced metals,” her lab states on its website (14). Beyond university research, Toyota’s battery powered Rav4 has an induction motor supplied from Tesla, and Dowa Holdings in Kosaka, Japan, has a recycling plant that extracts valuable metals and rare earths from old electronic parts (15).
Rare earth metals could soon provide increased security and environmental stability for countries worldwide. According to Foreign Policy, there are currently 50 rare earth deposits outside of China at an advanced stage of development, which could soon threaten China’s dominance in the industry. From a national defense standpoint, rare earth metals are critical for national defense because they are crucial for enabling radar systems and guided missiles (16). Thus, having a strong research and implementation base for that industry within the United States and other countries could ensure that those places remain secure during times of potential crises with China and its allies. Furthermore, the demand for green energy like wind turbines and electric vehicles continues to mount from regulations like the Paris Climate Agreement, where signatories vowed to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius (17). Alternate forms and substitutions for rare earth metals would ensure that global warming is kept at bay by providing more immediate sources to power green energy products, uninhibited by restrictions from places like China. Edward Richardson, president of the United States Magnetic Materials Association, affirms this argument for environmental stability through internalizing the rare earths process. “If the US is to become a leader in clean-energy technology,” Richardson said, “it needs a reliable domestic rare-earths supply chain” (18).
Honda’s hybrid battery has done just that for Japan; it has succeeded in being powered without Chinese rare earths a mere six years after its restrictions. The motor company shifted away from dysprosium, a heavy earth metal dominated by China, which will protect the company from price fluctuations, as they have control over the materials needed to produce it (19). Furthermore, the magnets used instead contain neodymium, found in North America and Australia, and will drop the price by 10% and make the products around 8% lighter (20). Honda anticipates that by 2030, over two-thirds of its lineup will consist of new energy vehicles, up from just 5% now. Given the complex, costly, and environmentally challenging nature of rare earth metals usage, Honda has paved the way for other companies and industries to follow suit in response to China’s self-serving actions and increasingly hostile security stance. The Japanese motor company’s swift shift in research and technological development demonstrates the power of countries to convert to methods that do not require monopolies of resources, which can pose a serious threat to economic prosperity and community well-being during times of security concerns.
The United States and other allies are increasingly opting for different rare earth metal methods to wane off dependence from China. This economic need has the indirect security implication of supporting free economies over centrally controlled ones, and has led to research in alternative sources of energy that possess the dual benefit of being cheaper and more sustainable. Rare earth metals extraction today introduces environmental security because it prompts the need for securing resources internally, if such resources are otherwise in questionable hands, and also pushes the discovery of more environmentally-friendly methods of obtaining or replacing such elements for the sake of domestic well-being. Typically, hard power issues like security take precedent in the international scene over more soft power platforms like economic development and environmental well being. However, in the case of rare earth metals, it is clear that perhaps the hard power issue of China protecting its own security interests is actually prompting long-awaited change in environmentally-friendly industrialization and domestic economic growth.
(1) British Geological Survey, and Royal Society of Chemistry. "What Are 'rare Earths' Used For?" BBC News. BBC, 13 Mar. 2012. Web. 26 July 2016.
(2) British Geological Survey, and Royal Society of Chemistry. "What Are 'rare Earths' Used For?" BBC News. BBC, 13 Mar. 2012. Web. 26 July 2016.
(3) Singh, Puneet Pal. "Has China Missed a 'rare' Opportunity with Rare Earths?" BBC News. BBC, 09 Aug. 2011. Web. 26 July 2016.
(4) "Environmental Damage." Mission 2016: Strategic Mineral Management. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, n.d. Web. 26 July 2016.
(5) Singh, Puneet Pal. "Has China Missed a 'rare' Opportunity with Rare Earths?" BBC News. BBC, 09 Aug. 2011. Web. 26 July 2016.
(6) Singh, Puneet Pal. "Has China Missed a 'rare' Opportunity with Rare Earths?" BBC News. BBC, 09 Aug. 2011. Web. 26 July 2016.
(7) Lifton, Jack. "US Has Been 'Foolish' On Rare Earth Metals." Technology Metals Research. Technology Metals Research, LLC, 4 Sept. 2010. Web. 24 July 2016.
(8) Singh, Puneet Pal. "Has China Missed a 'rare' Opportunity with Rare Earths?" BBC News. BBC, 09 Aug. 2011. Web. 26 July 2016.
(9) Singh, Puneet Pal. "Has China Missed a 'rare' Opportunity with Rare Earths?" BBC News. BBC, 09 Aug. 2011. Web. 26 July 2016.
(10) Singh, Puneet Pal. "Has China Missed a 'rare' Opportunity with Rare Earths?" BBC News. BBC, 09 Aug. 2011. Web. 26 July 2016.
(11) Lifton, Jack. "US Has Been 'Foolish' On Rare Earth Metals." Technology Metals Research. Technology Metals Research, LLC, 4 Sept. 2010. Web. 24 July 2016.
(12) Jacoby, Mitch, and Jessie Jiang. "Securing The Supply Of Rare Earths." Chemical and Engineering News. American Chemical Society, 30 Aug. 2010. Web. 26 July 2016.
(13) Russo, R.E. "What Is LA-ICP-MS? - Applied Spectra." Applied Spectra. Applied Spectra, n.d. Web. 26 July 2016.
(14) Lewis Lab. "Nanomagnetism Research Group - Northeastern University."Nanomagnetism Research Group - Northeastern University. Nanomagnetism Group, 2014. Web. 26 July 2016.
(15) IANS. "Chinese Checker: Honda's Rare Earth Metal Innovation Is a Game Changer." The New Indian Express. The New Indian Express, 17 July 2016. Web. 26 July 2016.
(16) Simmons, Lee. "Rare-Earth Market." Foreign Policy. Foreign Policy, 12 July 2016. Web. 26 July 2016.
(17) Simmons, Lee. "Rare-Earth Market." Foreign Policy. Foreign Policy, 12 July 2016. Web. 26 July 2016.
(18) IANS. "Chinese Checker: Honda's Rare Earth Metal Innovation Is a Game Changer." The New Indian Express. The New Indian Express, 17 July 2016. Web. 26 July 2016.
(19) Reuters. "Honda Has Developed a Hybrid Battery Without Chinese Rare Earths." Fortune. Time Inc., 11 July 2016. Web. 26 July 2016.
Image: © Tab1962 | Dreamstime.com - <a href="https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-rare-earth-soil-ships-image27769429#res14972580">Rare Earth Soil on Ships</a>
Renewed interest in the use of thorium as a renewable energy has emerged in recent years in light of the need for drastic measures to mitigate the effects of climate change. Thorium-based nuclear power has vast energy potential and its fuel cycle has significant advantages over that of uranium, which has produced nuclear plant disasters over the past half-century that have halted much of the nuclear technology research occurring since World War II. Thorium is a fertile element, possessing great energy capacity. It fuels nuclear reactors through the nuclear fission of uranium-233, which can be easily converted from thorium (1). Thorium is far more abundant on the earth than uranium, lacks weaponization potential, and reduces nuclear waste production. However, thorium has been far less researched than the other primary elements that serve as effective bases for nuclear power, uranium and plutonium, because of the 20th-century emphasis on nuclear weaponry. Now in the wake of the climate change crisis, thorium has been reintroduced into the field of renewable energy research because of its lack of proliferation potential, containment ability in the event of a malfunction or disturbance, and longevity of widespread use.
Despite thorium’s existence in chemical academia for nearly 200 years, the element has experienced only small waves of interest that have been reinvigorated recently by climate change concerns. Named after the Norse god of thunder, Thor, thorium was discovered in 1829 by Swedish chemist JJ Berzelius and was used later that century in the incandescent gas light mantle. Once electricity came around, thorium was essentially forgotten until nuclear physics was put at the forefront of the Allies’ agenda at the beginning of World War II with the Manhattan Project (2). Scientists discovered that uranium salts and thorium rays possessed the penetrating power of X-rays, but contained this energy internally rather than needing external agitation (3). However, researchers concluded that thorium was unsuitable for weaponization and only uranium and plutonium were investigated more extensively. In 1948, former Manhattan Project scientist Alvin Weinberg became director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), where he continued to research the feasibility of thorium reactors. This led to The Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, which operated at ORNL from 1965 to 1969 before the project fizzled with Washington’s emphasis on expanding its nuclear arsenal amidst Cold War security concerns. Thorium’s relevance has reemerged recently through the dual concerns of eliminating proliferation potential in an increasingly nuclearized world and the need for an abundant source of renewable energy that is efficient and also reduces the biomedical hazards posed in current nuclear plants.
The collective effort for thorium-based nuclear power research has sparked from scientific conferences in recent years, the most prominent and internationally-spanning being the Thorium Energy Conference in 2013. Held at CERN by the International Thorium Energy Committee, the conference was attended by over 200 scientists from 32 countries (4). The conference discussed the feasibility of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) as a safe, environmentally friendly, and economical alternative to other types of energy plants. Among the content of the lectures presented were a complex and thorough span of the technologies studied for LFTRs including accelerator developments, beam properties, spallation target technology, neutronic analyses, systems reliability, material exposure to strong irradiation sources, and destruction of nuclear waste. The conference addressed possible arguments against thorium technology, such as the concern for breeder reactors in general after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Union and the more recent radioactive material leakage at a Japanese nuclear power plant following the Great East Earthquake.
However, thorium needs far less initial material to begin energy production than uranium, and does not need continuous transport and feeding of enriched uranium, which increases proliferation risks (5). LFTRs also resist proliferation because thorium cannot be made directly into a weapon; reactors cannot be used to create substantially-sized quantities of pure plutonium, which are needed to make nuclear bombs (6). In addition, thorium is four times more abundant than uranium worldwide, and the element is nearly always found during the mining of rare earth metals, an operation that has recently reopened at Mountain Pass in California and Pea Ridge in Missouri (7). This abundance renders thorium an ideal and reliable new energy source that can last for hundreds of years. According to a 2009 United States Geological Survey, thorium reserves in the U.S. amount to over 44,000 tons, enough to last for hundreds of years. Excluding China, estimated worldwide reserves are around 1.3 million tons, and 1000-Megawatt LFTR plants only use one ton of thorium per year (8). From an economic standpoint, fewer construction materials need to be incorporated in the plants because the large cooling towers and containment structures used in high pressure uranium-based nuclear power plants are unnecessary (9).
The conference discussed and encouraged more national and international cooperative programs on thorium technologies, with collaboration being the goal to speed up the process in light of the urgency of making fundamental energy shifts for climate change mitigation. One example of such treaty exists between Russia and India, which agreed in December 2008 to set up a new range of reactor units across both countries (10). India has made notable progress towards using thorium-based nuclear power, with specific goals, timelines, and research phases rendering full-scale, government-backed mass implementation possible within the next 50 years. The country’s three-stage nuclear program has the strategic goal to establish a large-scale thorium-based power generator on a sustainable basis, with enough of a fissile inventory to allow for mass conversion of Thorium-232, the isotope occurring in nature (11). Currently, India’s Department of Atomic Energy plans to extensively rely on thorium energy usage by 2070, but the mounting need for fast climate change action and energy to desalinate water makes earlier deployment crucial. In the United States, vested interest in thorium has shifted from the government to the realm of private entrepreneurs, with companies like Flibe Energy marketing the LFTR. Two doctoral students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have also begun experimenting with Transatomic Power on the Waste Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor they have created (12). On a federal level, United States Senators Harry Reid and Orrin Hatch supported the provision of $250 million in federal research funds to revive the ORNL research from the mid-20th century with the intention to draft specific resolutions as India has done. Other countries are following closely behind, with Canadian scientists studying fast-breeder LFTR design in their Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) research, French researchers including thermal LFTRs as part of their Gen IV research, and China announcing an LFTR program in February 2011. With such a wealth of resources and technology available worldwide, it is crucial for thorium to be considered for climate change mitigation with the same urgency as other nuclear-reactive elements during the security dilemmas of the previous century.
(1) “India doesn’t lag in developing thorium-fuelled nuclear-reactor: MR Srinivasan, former AEC chairman.” India Economic Times. 29 May 2016. Web. 20 June 2016.
(2) Prabhu, Jaideep. “The story of thorium: A $50,000,000,000,000,000 (50 quadrillion) discovery untapped.” Firstpost. 4 June 2016. Web. 20 June 2016.
(4) Cooper, Nicolas, Daisuke Minakata, Miroslav Begovic, and John Crittenden. “Should We Consider Using Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors for Power Generation?” Environmental Science & Technology, 2011. 6 July 2011. Web. 20 June 2016.
(5) Engel, J.R., W.R. Grimes, H.F. Bauman, H.E. McCoy, J.F. Dearing, W.A. Rhoades. Conceptual Design Characteristics of Denatured Molten-Salt Breeder Reactor with Once-through Fueling, ORNL/TM-7207. Oak Ridge National Laboratory: Oak Ridge, TN, 1980. Web. 20 June 2016.
(6) Furukawa, K.A. “Road Map for the Realization of Global-Scale Thorium Fuel Cycle by Single Molten-Fluoride Flow.” Energy Conversion Management. 2008, 49, 1832-1848. Web. 21 June 2016.
(9) Moir, R.W., E. Teller. “Thorium-fueled underground power plant based on molten salt technology.” Nuclear Technology, 2005, 151 (Sept.) 334-340. Web. 20 June 2016.
(10) “India doesn’t lag in developing thorium-fuelled nuclear-reactor: MR Srinivasan, former AEC chairman.” India Economic Times. 29 May 2016. Web. 20 June 2016.
(11) Jha, Saurav. “Haten thorium power generation.” Deccan Herald. 30 May 2016. Web. 21 June 2016.
(12) Prabhu, Jaideep. “The story of thorium: A $50,000,000,000,000,000 (50 quadrillion) discovery untapped.” Firstpost. 4 June 2016. Web. 20 June 2016.
Image: © Nwanda76 | Dreamstime.com - <a href="https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-cern-image27890830#res14972580">CERN</a>