Small blocks of thorium generate heat surges that are configured as a thorium-based laser, says U.S. inventor Charles Stevens. These create steam from water within mini-turbines, generating electricity to drive a car.
A U.S. company says it is getting closer to putting prototype electric cars on the road that will be powered by the heavy-metal thorium.
Thorium is a naturally occurring, slightly radioactive rare-earth element discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, who named it after Thor, the Norse god of thunder. It is found in small amounts in most rocks and soils, where it is about three times more abundant than uranium.
However, the use of thorium is controversial because, as with uranium, it is used as a nuclear power source. Indeed, the internal heat of the Earth largely is attributed to the presence of thorium and uranium.
The key to the system developed by inventor Charles Stevens, CEO and chairman of Connecticut-based Laser Power Systems, is that when silvery metal thorium is heated by an external source, becomes it is so dense its molecules give off considerable heat.
Small blocks of thorium generate heat surges that are configured as a thorium-based laser, Stevens tells Ward’s. These create steam from water within mini-turbines, generating electricity to drive a car.
A 250 KW unit weighing about 500 lbs. (227 kg) would be small and light enough to drop under the hood of a car, he says.
Jim Hedrick, a specialist on industrial minerals – and until last year the U.S. Geological Survey’s senior advisor on rare earths – tells Ward’s the idea is “both plausible and sensible.”
Because thorium is so dense, similar to uranium, it stores considerable potential energy: 1 gm of thorium equals the energy of 7,500 gallons (28,391 L) of gasoline Stevens says. So, using just 8 gm of thorium in a car should mean it would never need refueling.
[Thorium has highest melting point of all oxides at 3,182° F.]