Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Gordon Murray's future F1 vision
This month's Motorsport Magazine revisits Gordon Murray's year 2000 vision for the future of Formula 1 (pictured above): a largely wingless, gas-turbine powered car, with wheel fairings, surface cooling, and a driver in a g-suit under a canopy.
One thing I would disagree with is the gas turbine; the 21st century should be about liberating nuclear energy, not chemical energy. I would therefore propose instead a mini nuclear reactor, a slightly smaller version of the US Hyperion reactor design suggested several years ago. The core of this reactor employs low-enriched uranium-hydride UH3 to obtain a negative coefficient of reactivity.
Whilst the neutrons released in fission have a mean energy around 1 MeV, the uranium-235 fission cross-section is highest at thermal neutron energies, at or below 0.025eV. Hence, to maintain a fission chain-reaction, it is necessary to moderate the energy of the neutrons, and elastic collisions between the neutrons and hydrogen nuclei are an efficient means to achieve this. "If the uranium hydride gets too hot, the hydrogen is driven out of the uranium metal and the chain reaction stops. But as the system is sealed, the hydrogen flows back into the uranium when it has cooled, allowing the reaction to restart." This provides an intrinsically safe, negative coefficient of reactivity.
I'm also worried that Gordon's future vision might generate lift rather than downforce, so I might add a diffuser or a couple of venturi tunnels under the car in the style of Ben Bowlby's recent DeltaWing design. But that's another story...