Recently, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) began working together to develop radio thermoelectric generators (RTGs), a novel strategy intended to overcome the limitations of conventional
chemical engines for interplanetary travel.
How Does RTGS Work?
- Chemical engines are effective for satellite thrusters, but due to fuel constraints and a lack of solar power in far-off places, they are unsuitable for long space flights.
- RTGS are innovative power sources designed to address these challenges in deep space missions.
- They utilize radioactive materials, such as Plutonium-238 or Strontium-90, which emit heat as they decay over time.
- The propulsion and power of spacecraft are made possible by the harnessing and conversion of this heat into electricity.
- Essentially, the engine contains two parts-
- The Radioisotope Heater Unit (RHU):
- Heat is produced by the RHU as a result of radioactive material decay.
- It starts the procedure by releasing thermal energy, which forms the basis for the production of electricity.
- The RTG (Heat-to-Electricity Conversion):
- The RTG part converts the heat that the RHU produces into useful power.
- A thermocouple, a substance that produces electricity when exposed to a temperature gradient, is used for this conversion.
- The spacecraft’s batteries are charged using the voltage the thermocouple produces.
- The propulsion systems that are powered by these batteries, in turn, enable interplanetary flight.