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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Video Friday: Turkey Sandwich

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

4 min read
A teleoperated humanoid robot torso stands in a kitchen assembling a turkey sandwich from ingredients on a tray

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Enjoy today's videos!

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New AI Speeds Computer Graphics by Up to 5x

Neural rendering harnesses machine learning to paint pixels

5 min read
Four examples of Nvidia's Instant NeRF 2D-to-3D machine learning model placed side-by-side.

Nvidia Instant NeRF uses neural rendering to generate 3D visuals from 2D images.

NVIDIA

On 20 September, Nvidia’s Vice President of Applied Deep Learning, Bryan Cantanzaro, went to Twitter with a bold claim: In certain GPU-heavy games, like the classic first-person platformer Portal, seven out of eight pixels on the screen are generated by a new machine-learning algorithm. That’s enough, he said, to accelerate rendering by up to 5x.

This impressive feat is currently limited to a few dozen 3D games, but it’s a hint at the gains neural rendering will soon deliver. The technique will unlock new potential in everyday consumer electronics.

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Designing Fuel Cell Systems Using System-Level Design

Modeling and simulation in Simulink and Simscape

1 min read
Designing Fuel Cell Systems Using System-Level Design

Design and simulate a fuel cell system for electric mobility. See by example how Simulink® and Simscape™ support multidomain physical modeling and simulation of fuel cell systems including thermal, gas, and liquid systems. Learn how to select levels of modeling fidelities to meet your needs at different development stages.