Tech Briefs

Dielectric Heaters for Testing Spacecraft Nuclear Reactors

A document proposes the development of radio-frequency- (RF)-driven dielectric heaters for non-nuclear thermal testing of the cores of nuclear-fission reactors for spacecraft.

Like the electrical-resistance heaters used heretofore for such testing, the dielectric heaters would be inserted in the reactors in place of nuclear fuel rods. A typical heater according to the proposal would consist of a rod of lossy dielectric material sized and shaped like a fuel rod and containing an electrically conductive rod along its center line. Exploiting the dielectric loss mechanism that is usually considered a nuisance in other applications, an RF signal, typically at a frequency =50 MHz and an amplitude between 2 and 5 kV, would be applied to the central conductor to heat the dielectric material. The main advantage of the proposal is that the wiring needed for the RF dielectric heating would be simpler and easier to fabricate than is the wiring needed for resistance heating. In some applications, it might be possible to eliminate all heater wiring and, instead, beam the RF heating power into the dielectric rods from external antennas.

This work was done by William Herbert Sims of Marshall Space Flight Center, Leo Bitteker of the University of California, and Thomas Godfroy of the University of Michigan. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Physical Sciences category.

This invention is owned by NASA, and a patent application has been filed. For further information, contact Sammy Nabors, MSFC Commercialization Assistance Lead, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Refer to MFS- 31823-1.

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).

Dielectric Heaters for Testing Spacecraft Nuclear Reactors (reference MFS-31823-1) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

Please Login at the top of the page to download.