THERMIONIC DIRECT CONVERSION STUDIES WITH A NOBLE GAS PLASMA DIODE 600338
A program is being conducted on the direct conversion of nuclear fission heat to electricity in a plasma diode that utilizes a new mode of plasma generation. Fission fragments from a uranium bearing cathode are used to produce a plasma of relatively low fractional ionization in a noble gas. Electron mobility in a noble gas is sufficiently high to provide a diode resistance that could be sufficiently low enough to operate efficiently. The inherent advantage of such a diode converter is that it eliminates the use of an alkali metal in the diode. An experiment has been performed in the University of Michigan research reactor in which a uranium carbide cathode was operated up to temperatures of 2000°K. Diode characteristics that were measured are discussed.