How could the properties of black holes be exploited?

Abstract

The possible applications of black holes are explored, with a focus on interstellar travel and energy extraction. Further to this, emphasis is placed upon Oberth manoeuvres, Hawking radiation, and the creation of black holes. An equation for the maximum \(\Delta V\) from a one-stage Oberth manoeuvre is derived. A conclusion is reached that although these applications may be possible in the distant future, they are likely to have been superseded by more effective, viable alternatives that do not have the risks associated with black holes.

St Edward’s School, Oxford
Candidate Number: 2500
Centre Number: 62351
Word Count: 4998

Introduction

Since the Theory of General Relativity was first proposed by Albert Einstein in 1915 (Einstein, 1915) numerous breakthroughs have been made in the understanding of physics. Einstein detailed what are known as the Einstein Field Equations, describing the interaction of gravity due to the curvature of space-time by both matter and energy. Einstein was unable to find an exact solution to these equations, however Karl Schwarzschild succeeded and subsequently published his findings (Schwarzschild, 1916). One of the major implications of Schwarzschild’s solution was that of singularities, points of infinite density in space. These led to the concept of a black hole however the term was not used until 1967 (Overbye, 2008). Black holes will be the focus of this essay, to explore any potential practical applications of them, and how these could potentially be realised.

Black Holes

Prior to discussing the possible applications of black holes it is important to understand how and why they are formed, as well as their basic properties.