Friday, July 9, 2010

SteamBoyz: Tiny Bubble

Not your ordinary snails...

~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~
by kvb (the hubby)
~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~

Bulla Parvula, or as she was more affectionately known to her captain and single crew member—Tiny Bubble – was to be made ready to be under way to Brasil. This took some doing as she was at cold iron, having sat in Scotland for the past month. Jade woke up at first light and got busy with what would be an exhausting day. Jade always ensured that there was sufficient heavy water on board to start the two meter diameter sapphire boiling-water reactor humming along nicely.

To begin the process of starting the reactor, Jade opened the compressed air supply valve. There was still high pressure air in the receiver. The air entered the sphere through the reaction air manifold on the bottom and filtered through a sintered carbon diffuser and emerged as an upward flowing cascade of micro bubbles. These bubbles rose up into the bell shaped Lorentzitite catalytic converter. Upon contact with the Lorentzitite, each bubble would suddenly and violently collapse, creating the ultra high and highly localized temperatures and pressures needed to fuse the deuterons and tritons.

The heavy water which contained the deuterium and tritium was injected through the top of the sphere through the heavy water manifold and into the Lorentzitite where it made its way to the inner surface through the micro channels that is one of the several amazing features of this natural and extremely rare mineral.

Another remarkable feature of Lorentzitite is that at its surface, the bubbles collapse and the fusion of deuterons and tritons into helium and a neutron is essentially catalyzed by the mechanical, chemical and crystalline structure of the material.

A third feature of the Lorentzitite is the amazing heat transfer characteristics which allow heat to transfer from the inside of the bell to the outside and into the cooling water. The cooling water was pumped into the sphere from six injection ports around the equator of the sapphire sphere. This water was injected by 12 stage high pressure feed pumps at about 25 atmospheres. The feedwater would then be heated by the Lorentzitite bell and turn into steam to be drawn off through a large steam manifold which also came off the top and carried high pressure steam to each of the various loads.

A fourth wonder of Lorentzitite is that it develops no boiler scale, so there was never any cleaning that needed to occur. Boiler scale would simply flake off of the bell before it got to be more than a millimeter big and fall to the bottom of the sphere where it was flushed out and discarded periodically.

Jade busied herself with her valve line-ups. Pretty soon the eerie blue glow of bremsstrahlung emanating from the sphere indicated that the fusion reaction was happening. Soon there was nucleate boiling on the outer surface of the bell, then a departure from nucleate boiling and the pressure of the sphere rose slightly until the unloaders started to dump steam directly into the condensers.

At this point, Jade started to supply steam to various loads. She turned down the reaction air supply since she didn’t need much steam initially. She started to send steam through all the various steam supply pipes to their loads. This was a long process since the pipes themselves had to be heated up slowly. As the pipes heated up, she rolled the turbines ever so slowly to heat them up evenly and prevent bowing and water-hammer.

Bulla Parvula had several turbines, including the SSTG ships service turbine generator, the isoprop engines, the massive high-volume high pressure noble gas compressor, a fire pump, the feed and condensate pumps, the reaction air compressor, and the line shaft turbine. By now, Phoebus and his golden chariot had reached his highest point and was starting his career down to the western horizon. Jade had been at work for eight hours.

Jade was satisfied that she had gotten the engine room into good order. The turbines were rolling freely and slowly. All the pipes were hot and all condensation had been removed. The condenser had a vacuum and all systems were in good order.

The next major evolution she had to perform was deploying the balloon. She opened valves on high pressure cylinders which contained helium. This helium filled cells of a huge silk balloon which was folded up and stored in the “silk locker” on the top of the Bulla Parvula. This was the special aeronautical silk, woven tightly and laid out with the leaves of a certain Lupine plant covering it. A species of snail would dine on that lupine plant and in the process leave a slime trail on the silk. Millions of these snails were set to work and ultimately their slime trails seamlessly covered the entire silk balloon with an impermeable and durable brilliant purple layer which prevented the loss of the very precious helium.

As the cells filled, the balloon unfolded from the locker and started to take on the shape of a giant rugby ball, attached to the Bulla Parvula by thousands of sheets which she would ultimately be suspended, and by the filling and deflation lines which controlled altitude during flight and ensured that as little precious helium was lost as possible. The cells filled rapidly. There were no constraints upon filling the silk, as it was called. The helium and the cylinders cooled as the helium was discharged, but some thin coils of copper steam pipe with wet, low pressure steam prevented freeze-ups and it would take many hours for the oblong spheroid that provided nearly two hundred and fifty metric tons of buoyancy to fill, and Jade still had much to do.

Jade went back to check the pressure of the sapphire sphere and made some adjustments. A happy byproduct of the reaction that was occurring was the production of helium, a rare and valuable commodity indeed. Many people took their chances with the much more abundant and buoyant hydrogen.

Many of these people came to grief too since the hydrogen so readily exploded. Also, while aeronautical silk was impermeable to helium, it was not impermeable to the much lighter molecular weight hydrogen, so a tremendous amount of surplus gas would need to be brought along for any trip.

In the sapphire sphere, the deuterium and tritium fused into helium and released a lot of heat in the process. This helium rose to the top of the Lorentzitite bell and a tube allowed it to escape through another small penetration in the sphere and into a receiver. Jade wanted to make sure to capture all the helium for future use or for sale.

Jade continued to bring systems on line. She warmed up the main engines that drove the two isoprops. She opened and closed valves to exercise the various rudders, and other control surfaces. She brought the water purification system online for use in skimming seawater while in flight, purifying it, extracting heavy water and so on. There were thousands of valves. Some were ball cocks, throttles, gates, globes, self actuated, relief, remotely actuated. The engineers console was in fact very similar to the console of a very large and complex church organ.

Jade wiped the sweat from her brow and shook her head vigorously to try to clear the fatigue. It had been ten hours since she had started preparing the Bulla Parvula for getting underway. The balloon was finally full enough that it raised the Bulla Parvula up a couple of meters until the mooring line to an anchor ring on the ground went taut. Jade called out to Jane “Tiny Bubble is ready to get underway! All systems are at hot standby.”

~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~
by kvb (the hubby)
~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~

* image source Alex Pribnow's steampunk snails

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