Re: Nuclear heater for Expeditions

Adam Foust (
Tue, 6 Jan 1998 16:28:58 -0600

Dan Clemmensen wrote:
> I suspect that the weight of even a tiney "mister fusion" will be more
> than the weight of a reasonable amount of insulation.
CLIP (out of sequence):
> I can think of four three approaches, but they all pretty much
> require nanotech...

How about a small chemical heater of some sort that cleanly and
efficiently metabolizes some substance and generates heat as a
byproduct? Like an ideal fuel cell? Humans maintain an average body
temp of 98.6F from metabolizing a variety of molecules broken
down from food substances; couldn't something much much simpler
than a life form perform something similar for the specific purpose
of generating varying levels of heat efficiently? Is breaking down
water from melting snow, slowly burning the H and exhausting the O2
possible in a tiny device with today's tech? This would seem a
practical level of tech for camping in cold environments with
moisture in some form present.

One problem I see with the "mister fusion" idea is what are the
consequences of pitching the product in the garbage? Would even
nanotech be able to break down all of the elements in the device?
At the very least, you would have to have nanotech for the assembly
and breakdown of such devices; even if the devices themselves were
relatively safe, mass-producing and disposing of them using today's
technology would probably be extremely hazardous.

Not to mention the PR issues revolving around the safety factor of
little Johnny cranking up the heat and slamming the thing with a
hammer. Even if the device itself were 100% safe, along with the
production and disposal (assuming nanotech), any of the words
associated with "nuclear" or "fusion" would probably keep it off
the market long after it first technologically viable to safetly
make and sell. People heavily protested a little battery being
lobbed into the void of space (the Cassini Saturn probe).

Although it might be hard to make money off of (legally), there's
probably nothing to prevent hobbyist from downloading the specs
for the device and nano-assembling it themselves, assuming the
proper element(s) could be obtained (that's probably the sticky
issue that opens a really really big can of worms: if it were
easy, then why not a 100mton explosive device?...). Laws may not
be as strict outside Earth's biosphere, but then who would want
to manufacture personal heater devices "out there" unless they
could sell them "here" or other places for use in uncontrolled
temperature environments (like the surfaces of planets)?...

Technology-wise, Mr. Fusion is a great idea. ;)

> I've heard that traditional Korean houses are heated by a
> wood-burning stove under the house whose chimney is a meandering
> ceramic pipe buried in the floor. A high-tech version of this might
> let you put the burner outside the tent while still getting nearly
> all the heat into the tent.

That's sounds like a good innovation that could be applied for
today's camping gear. You might even invert this: have the (tiny)
heater sit inside the tent, and have small, flexible, insolated
pipes (hoses?) vent in air and out exhaust. Or would this be
an unworkable contraption on the small-scale? Maybe an arctic
survival heater similar to this already exists? Or would this be
an unworkable contraption on the small-scale?

[Adam Foust] * *