Atherma — Solving the Energy Crisis with Nuclear.

Atherma’s proprietary thermoelectric nuclear reactor prototype.

1) Inconsistency.

Renewables today are just too inconsistent — the sun doesn’t always shine, wind doesn’t always blow, you get the memo. And even if we managed to overcome this, geography and seasonal variations will make it incredibly difficult to use these technologies globally at scale.

Source

2) Resource Intensity.

Renewables are environmentally friendly — at least, that’s what they look like on the surface. They may not produce (direct) emissions, but they require significantly more minerals and resources than any other energy production method.

3) High land usage.

Perhaps the worst part about renewables is their extremely poor power density — 1000x less than natural gas.

So, what do we do?

We need to find a way to generate electricity without harming the planet (fossil fuels), or the environment (renewables).

The Status Quo.

Today’s nuclear reactors operate on a very simple set of steps to produce electricity:

  1. This atom is then split, releasing huge amounts of energy and neutrons, which then go onto split more atoms and release more energy. This is known as nuclear fission.
  2. The heat produced by these reactors warm surrounding water to extremely high temperatures, generating high-pressure steam.
  3. This steam is then used to spin turbines, which in turn powers a generator.
  4. Electricity!

1. Miniaturize

It’s difficult to scale gargantuan power plants — the added size adds significant construction challenges and billions more to the end total.

2. Simplify

It’s no surprise that nuclear is one of the most complex ways of generating energy. However, it is this complexity that makes this technology unable to provide power to the world (not to mention increasing manufacturing difficulties).

3. Manufacture

Our end vision is a world where simplified nuclear power can be mass-produced in factories. Current reactors by other SMR companies are too complex to be produced rapidly, resulting in dozens of onsite construction teams and 2x cost overruns.

Design

Now that we’ve outlined our general strategy, let’s talk about the how.

Source
Thermocouples inside thermoelectric devices. Source
Where S = Seebeck coefficient, σ = electrical conductivity of material, and K = thermal conductivity. Source.

1. Graphene-based nanoribbons

A carbon-based 2D material, graphene has been found to exhibit a figure of 1.4 when synthesized with various chemical vapours (source), with some scientists believing that it can reach a peak efficiency of up to 6.1 — TRIPLE the threshold needed to become more efficient than current generation methods.

2. Carbon Nanotubes

a. CNTs are essentially cylinders made of a single layer of carbon atoms — and, researchers at the US Department of Energy have found that they can be used for both the p and n sides of a thermocouple. This means that the same material can be used for both parts of a thermoelectric device, simplifying the manufacturing process.

3. Organic Thermoelectric Devices

a. Organic TE materials are based off of polymers, and while they’re traditionally meant for room temperature applications (with a figure of merit = 0.42), their potentially low cost and relative ease of manufacturing (such as with additive manufacturing or 3D printing) makes it an attractive investment of time and resources.

Exponential growth in the thermoelectric industry.
Projected growth in the next 2 decades.
Atherma’s reactor — Fermi!

Economics.

As we mentioned, nuclear power costs ~5 500/kW. And, we also know that graphene nanoribbons have a peak efficiency of 6 — making our solution 3x more efficient that current alternatives. This means that for the same price, we can generate 3 kW of energy — compared to 1.

Source
  1. Electrical and generating equipment 3% (no need for alternators or generators — thermoelectric devices directly convert heat, though 1/4th of the cost remains as the expense for the devices themselves)
  2. Mechanical equipment — 14% (Fewer pumps are needed for helium gas, though added pressurizers don’t result in too much of a difference)
  3. Construction materials — 6% (SMRs do not require the construction of towers + are more cost effective)
  4. Onsite labour — 6% (this is the largest estimated reduction at 19% — a lack of complex equipment makes it significantly easier to build these reactors)
  5. PM Services — 2% (Fewer workers = smaller need for PMs and a reduced amount of teams)
Source

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Aditya Dewan

Aditya Dewan

55 Followers

Building companies. Machine Learning Specialist @Actionable.co. Philosophy x Tech.