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Scientists are Making a Thorium Engine That Can Run for 100 Years Without Refueling

If your car was powered by thorium, you would never have to refuel it. The vehicle would burn out long before the chemical did. The thorium would last so long, actually, it would perhaps outlive you.

That's why a company called Laser Power Systems has made a model for a thorium-powered car engine. The element is radioactive, and the team utilizes bits of it to construct a laser beam that heats water, yields steam, and powers an energy-producing turbine.

Thorium is one of the densest materials on the planet. A small sample of it packs 20 million times more energy than a same-sized sample of coal, making it a perfect energy source.

The thing is, Dr. Charles Stevens, the CEO of Laser Power Systems, told Mashable that thorium engines won't be in cars anytime soon.

"Cars are not our primary concern," Stevens said. "The automakers do not want to buy them."

He said too much of the automobile industry is attentive to making money off of gas engines, and it will take at least a couple decades for thorium technology to be used enough in other industries that vehicle builders will start to consider refurbishing the way they think about engines.

"We're building this to power the rest of the world," Stevens said. He considers a thorium turbine about the size of an air conditioning unit could more deliver cheap power for whole restaurants, hotels, office buildings, even small towns in areas of the world without electricity. At some point, thorium could power singular homes.

Stevens understands that people may be wary of Thorium as it is radioactive — but any such worry would be groundless.

"The radiation that we develop off of one of these things can be isolated by a single sheet off of aluminum foil," Stevens said." "You will get more radiation from one of those dental X-rays than this."

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