Skip to comments.Massive electric current tested in US
Posted on 07/29/2005 2:28:26 PM PDT by Grendel9
Thursday 28 July 2005, 12:01 Makka Time, 9:01 GMT
The test was part of an operation to test US nuclear capability
Scientists at the Nevada Test Site have said they generated a current equal to roughly four times all the electrical power on Earth.
The current, which created pressures in materials millions of times greater than normal, was part of an experiment to better understand nuclear weapons.
The experiment was conducted on Wednesday at the test site's Atlas Pulsed Power Facility by scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, along with staff from the test site and contractor Bechtel Nevada.
19 million amps
During the few millionths of a second that it operated, the 650-ton Atlas pulsed-power generator discharged nearly 19 million amps of current through an aluminum cylindrical shell about the size of a tuna can, the National Nuclear Security Administration said.
Atlas, which works as a giant power multiplier, was designed as part of an Energy Department programme to determine the readiness of the nation's nuclear stockpile without underground testing.
It was built at Los Alamos and recently moved to the Nevada Test Site, a proving ground just north of Las Vegas
Wait a minute. Power is 'watts' or 'joules/second'. Energy is 'watt seconds or hours'. That's power x time. The unit mw/hr would read 'milliwatts per hour', which is not correct at all. The joule is the unit for energy. A joule/s is a watt.
Electrical generating plants are usually rated in 'megawatts' or 'MW' with a capital M. This is power. Power is only the time RATE at which electical energy is produced/used. You don't buy 'power', you buy 'energy'. Energy is measured in watts times time, or 'watt hours'. This is sometimes written as 'watt-hours' but then some folks think the dash is a minus sign, which it isn't.
A 100 Watt light bulb isn't more 'powerful' than a 60 watt bulb. Things can't 'have' power. They can only 'use' energy at higher or lower rates. 100 Watts means the bulb uses energy at the rate of 100 joules per second. Every second it is on, it uses 100 joules. In one hour, it uses 360 000 joules of energy.
Wait a minute again! 'Peak' implies a rate rather than a total. (Just as 'peak speed' would be measured in 'miles/hour'. Total distance would be speed times time, which gives 'distance'.)
If they wanted to say 'power' they should use 'megawatts'. If they want to say 'energy' they should use 'megawatt hours'. It sounds as if they were talking about power since they mentioned a peak value. This means people were using energy a the highest RATE for the day. They should have said 'megawatts', the proper unit for power, not 'megawatt hours'.
But I understand that if you wear a tinfoil hat, you can thwart the power of it. ;)
Atlas consists of high voltage capacitor banks that discharge electrical energy into a system of parallel plate transmission lines. Large electrical currents flowing through the plates produce an intense magnetic field, applying a huge pressure pulse into a cylindrical liner and target containing materials of interest. Atlas acts as a giant power amplifier, using energy that accumulates slowly at 480 volts and is stored in the machine's capacitor banks for sudden release into the liner and target. As the electrical current surges through Atlas, it accelerates materials to velocities well in excess of that required to escape Earth's gravity (as high as 22,000 miles per hour), and generates pressures equivalent to millions of times that of Earth's atmosphere. During the few millionths of a second that it is operating at full performance, the tremendous electrical output of Atlas is approximately three to four times that of the world's total electric power production (4 trillion watts)!
LANL and Sandia have been doing this sort of thing for years. Huge currents are pushed through a rounded conductor, and in the process vaporize it. The magnetic field produced by the current drives the plasma radially into a target. The collisions with the target produce considerable radiation. These are device simulators.
Hoover, Eureka and others are salivating.
"Get the NEW supersucker, with 19million big amps!"
Messy. A 20-amp (fast blow) terrorist in a 19 million amp circuit...
Quibble: escape speed is 25 000 mi/h near the earth's surface.
This is an excellent post. It shows knowledge of physics and explains things clearly and concisely. You have brought the discussion of a technical subject to the right level of detail without being pedantic.
Most people have no understanding of physics and everyday conversation doesn't have the same precise definitions for ideas like power and energy and motion. For example try to tell someone that the brake pedal in their car is an accelerator. In physics it is an accelerator as is the steering wheel when going around a corner, but neither of these devices will ever be an accelerator in common conversation.
In the imagination of popular culture, a 100 Watt bulb will always be more powerful than a 60 Watt one. This is often a source of confusion when moving to scientific subjects.
I remember seeing an Air Force magazine back in the early 90's of a B-52 (BUFF) on a big wooden platform. The Sandia guys used the wooden platform to zap planes and other systems with big EMP jolts to see how well they'd survive and what could be done to shield them.
Like this one?
Thanks, stripes. Power and energy are confusing topics for most folks. Of course, since journalists know nothing about it but pretend they do, they are of no help. They pretend everyone else understands it, too. It would be nice if they would give a little sidebar whenever they talk about this stuff. If you want to read it, fine. If not, fine. But they should at least give it a shot rather than bluffing. And it is obvious they rarely run the stories past anyone who understands the topics, either.
wholey cow! :D