TerraPower’s Nuclear Reactor Could Power the 21st Century

The traveling-wave reactor and other advanced reactor designs could solve our fossil fuel dependency

10 min read
Photo: TerraPower
Pipe Dream: Sodium-cooled nuclear reactors have a history of lackluster performance, but TerraPower believes it can build one that will work. Testing the flow of molten sodium through the reactor assembly is crucial. Water shares many of the same flow characteristics as the toxic metal and is a viable substitute for tests.
Photo: TerraPower

Table tennis isn’t meant to be played at Mach 2. At twice the speed of sound, the ping-pong ball punches a hole straight through the paddle. The engineers at TerraPower, a startup that has designed an advanced nuclear power reactor, use a pressurized-air cannon to demonstrate that very point to visitors. The stunt vividly illustrates a key concept in nuclear fission: Small objects traveling at high speed can have a big impact when they hit something seemingly immovable.

And perhaps there is a larger point being made here, too—one about a small and fast-moving startup having a big impact on the electric-power industry, which for many years also seemed immovable.

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Mojo Vision Puts Its AR Contact Lens Into Its CEO’s Eyes (Literally)

With batteries on board and communicating wirelessly, the augmented reality contact lens reaches a major milestone

6 min read
closeup of eye with contact lens containing electronic components

Mojo Vision CEO Drew Perkins wears one of the company’s augmented reality contact lenses.

Mojo Vision

Editor’s note: In March, I looked through Mojo Vision’s AR contact lens—but I didn’t put it in my eye. At that point, while non-working prototypes had been tested for wearability, nobody had worn the fully functional, battery-powered, wirelessly communicating, device. Today, Mojo announced that its augmented reality lens had gone on-eye—specifically, on the eye of Mojo Vision CEO Drew Perkins, on 23 June.

“I’ve worn it. It works....and it was the first ever on eye demonstration of a feature complete augmented reality smart contact lens,” reported Perkins in a blog post. “The final technical hurdle to wearing the lens was ensuring that the power and radio communications systems worked without wires. Cutting the cord [proved] that the lens and all major components are fully functional and reduce many of the technical challenges in building a smart contact lens.”

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Explosive Power Beats Even Moore’s Law

The power of destructiveness is the most impressive metric of modern technology

2 min read
A photo of a nuclear explosion with islands in the foreground.

On 30 October 1961, the Soviet Union detonated the Tsar Bomba hydrogen bomb, which had the destructive power of 50 megatons of TNT, or 210 petajoules.

Alamy

The rising number of components on a microchip is the go-to example of roaring innovation. Intel’s first microprocessor, the 4004, released in 1971, had 2,300 transistors; half a century later the highest count surpasses 50 billion, for the Apple M1 Max—an increase of seven orders of magnitude. Most other technical advances have lagged behind: During the entire 20th century, maximum travel speeds rose less than tenfold, from about 100 kilometers per hour for express trains to 900 km/h for cruising jetliners. Skyscrapers got only 2.4 times as tall, from the Singer Building (187 meters) to the Petronas Towers (452 meters).

But there is one accomplishment that, unfortunately, has seen even higher gains since 1945: the destructive power of explosives.

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Comsol

Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) often reach higher energy density and exhibit greater efficiency than battery EVs; however, they also have high manufacturing costs, limited service life, and relatively low power density.

Modeling and simulation can improve fuel cell design and optimize EV performance. Learn more in this white paper.