Washington: The amount of nuclear fuel and radioactive power remaining inside the Earth may be calculated by 2025, which can help estimate how long this fuel will last, scientists say, according to PTI.
Earth requires fuel to drive plate tectonics, volcanoes and its magnetic field. Like a hybrid car, Earth taps two sources of energy to run its engine: primordial energy from assembling the planet and nuclear energy from the heat produced during natural radioactive decay.
Scientists have developed numerous models to predict how much fuel remains inside Earth to drive its engines – and estimates vary widely – but the true amount remains unknown. A team from the University of Maryland in the US, Charles University in Prague and the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, now claims it will be able to determine by 2025 how much nuclear fuel and radioactive power remain in the Earth’s tank.
To calculate the amount of fuel inside Earth by 2025, the researchers will rely on detecting some of the tiniest subatomic particles known to science – geoneutrinos. These antineutrino particles are byproducts of nuclear reactions within stars (including our sun), supernovae, black holes and human-made nuclear reactors. They also result from radioactive decay processes deep within the Earth.
Detecting antineutrinos requires a huge detector the size of a small office building, housed about a mile underground to shield it from cosmic rays that could yield false positive results. Inside the detector, scientists detect antineutrinos when they crash into a hydrogen atom. The collision produces two characteristic light flashes that unequivocally announce the event.
The number of events scientists detect relates directly to the number of atoms of uranium and thorium inside the Earth. The decay of these elements, along with potassium, fuels the vast majority of the heat in the Earth’s interior.