Black hole starship

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A black hole starship is a theoretical idea for enabling interstellar travel by propelling a starship by creating an artificial black hole and using a parabolic reflector to reflect its Hawking radiation. In 2009, Alexander Bolonkin and Louis Crane, Shawn Westmoreland offered and published a paper and book [1 -3] investigating the feasibility of this idea. Their conclusion was that it was on the edge of possibility, but that quantum gravity effects that are presently unknown will either make it easier, or make it impossible.[1][2]

Although beyond current technological capabilities, a black hole starship offers some advantages compared to other possible methods. For example, in nuclear fusion or fission, only a small proportion of the mass is converted into energy, so enormous quantities of material would be needed. Thus, a nuclear starship would greatly deplete Earth of fissile and fusile material. One possibility is antimatter, but the manufacturing of antimatter is hugely energy-inefficient, and antimatter is difficult to contain. The Crane and Westmoreland paper continues:


According to the authors, a black hole to be used in space travel needs to meet five criteria:

  1. has a long enough lifespan to be useful,
  2. is powerful enough to accelerate itself up to a reasonable fraction of the speed of light in a reasonable amount of time,
  3. is small enough that we can access the energy to make it,
  4. is large enough that we can focus the energy to make it,
  5. has mass comparable to a starship.

Black holes seem to have a sweet spot in terms of size, power and lifespan which is almost ideal. A black hole weighing 606,000 metric tons (6.06 × 108 kg), or roughly the mass of the Seawise Giant (the longest sea-going ship ever built) would have a Schwarzschild radius of 0.9 attometers (0.9 × 10–18 m, or 9 × 10–19 m), a power output of 160 petawatts (160 × 1015 W, or 1.6 × 1017 W), and a 3.5-year lifespan. With such a power output, the black hole could accelerate to 10% the speed of light in 20 days, assuming 100% conversion of energy into kinetic energy. Assuming only 10% conversion into kinetic energy would only take 10 times longer to accelerate to 0.1c (10% of the speed of light).[1]

Getting the black hole to act as a power source and engine also requires a way to convert the Hawking radiation into energy and thrust. One potential method involves placing the hole at the focal point of a parabolic reflector attached to the ship, creating forward thrust. A slightly easier, but less efficient method would involve simply absorbing all the gamma radiation heading towards the fore of the ship to push it onwards, and let the rest shoot out the back.[3] This would, however, generate an enormous amount of heat as radiation is absorbed by the dish.

In fiction[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Are Black Hole Starships Possible?", Louis Crane, Shawn Westmoreland, 2009
  2. ^ Chown, Marcus (25 November 2009). "Dark power: Grand designs for interstellar travel". New Scientist (2736).  (subscription required)
  3. ^