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Novel Research Proposes Harnessing Miniature Black Holes for Nuclear Power Generation

The concept of black holes often elicits fear and apprehension, their inescapable nature and ability to consume everything sparking dread. However, the accuracy of these notions ranges from debatable to incorrect. Physicists Zhan-Feng Mai and Run-Qiu Yang from Tianjin University in China have now calculated a potential way to extract energy from these celestial entities. According to their research, minuscule black holes could serve as a source of power, functioning as rechargeable batteries and nuclear reactors, providing energy on a gigaelectronvolt scale.

An artist’s impression of black holes in a cluster of stars. (ESA/Hubble, N. Bartmann)

Contrary to common belief, the energy extraction doesn’t originate from within the black hole but from just outside it, where the most intense concentrations of gravity in the Universe exist. While our Universe is believed to be filled with black holes of varying masses, including stellar and massive ones, there is another theoretical class known as primordial black holes, which could be spatially tiny, possibly reaching subatomic sizes.

Primordial black holes, if they exist, could have formed from overdensities in the primordial plasma after the Big Bang, presenting intriguing possibilities, such as serving as candidates for dark matter. The researchers propose that these hypothetical black holes could be harnessed to generate electrical energy, essentially acting as rechargeable batteries.

The challenge with very small black holes lies in Hawking radiation, the mass lost due to interactions between the black hole’s event horizon and quantum fields. However, Mai and Yang suggest that a primordial black hole above a certain mass could be replenished and recharged to produce electrical energy. Their calculations indicate that an atom-sized black hole with a mass between 10^15 and 10^18 kilograms could achieve 25 percent efficiency in converting input mass to energy – a rate comparable to or even exceeding that of commercially available solar panels.

While testing this concept remains impractical, given the speculative nature of primordial black holes and the challenges of containment and control, the study prompts intriguing considerations. The researchers note that their black hole reactor model aligns with the mass range proposed for dark matter, hinting at the possibility of leveraging one of the Universe’s most mysterious forms of matter to power practical applications, including household appliances like refrigerators.

The research is due to be published in Physical Review D, and is available on arXiv.

This article is republished from ScienceAlert under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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