Joseph Friedlander’s ideas on future engineering with AB-Matter (Bolonkin Femtotech). A guest article by Joseph Friedlander.
If Professor Bolonkin’s AB-Needles and AB-Matter can be formed and used in quantity then what would be possible in far future space technology ?
In my correspondence with Professor A.A. Bolonkin he has advanced many wonderful new conceptions but the most amazing of these has got to be the idea of AB-Matter, and its sub-variant of AB-Needles, a hypothetical class of (possibly) buildable nuclear matter, stabilized degenerate matter in small amounts on the femtotech scale (10e-15 m, a million times smaller than nanotech) if it works at all. The basic principle is assembly of nuclear particles in non-clumping nuclear strings, and alignment of these strings with others to make the various perfect linear forms of net, grid, tube, plate, girders and other constructions. They depend on specialized construction rules: Note that the very strength and structural integrity of AB-Matter requires following the design rules and keeping close protons well spaced away on either side of the string of to avoid the attractions that produce the conventional tangled nucleus. A sphere with radius 3 fm cannot contains more than 238 nucleons. That means in a cube 6x6x6 =216 fm3 cannot be more than 238 nucleons.
Suppose we can at first produce these femtotech forms. Then the vast leap to assembling structures of use. Will there be problems? So many that it would take an article merely to list the ones we can guess at now. And that is for passive structures. Active mechanisms would be harder still. The quantum state read write problem for one. Yet femto scale computing structures have been speculative fodder for writers like Hans Moravec for over a generation. (Hans Moravec computronium paper is here) The rewards—of femto computing– if they can be achieved– are too rich to stop dreaming about.
Bolonkin, “’AB-Matter’ has extraordinary properties (for example, tensile strength, stiffness, hardness, critical temperature, superconductivity, super-transparency, zero friction, etc.), which are up to millions of times better than corresponding properties of conventional molecular matter.” Since the history of technology is often the history of what we can build with the materials we have, this implies millions of times better capabilities in what we can build.
This article is focusing on some possibilities I thought up using AB-Matter and the super-stiff AB-Needles, assuming they work and can be produced in quantity cheap enough to pay. The objections to AB-Matter are possibly listable in an order similar to the following:
1) Reasons why the concept is fundamentally impossible.
2) Reasons why if buildable on an experimental scale it would neither be practical or likely to be able to deploy anything useful.
3) Reasons why if some small limited use can be made practical scaling up is out of the question.
4) Reasons why if very large scale applications are possible they cannot work as stated.
This article will assume that objection series 1)-3) are no problem, and focus on suggestions that can be picked apart with objection series 4, so feel free to comment below.
It is totally understandable that people would object to the idea of a form of nuclear matter absent in nature, but the idea is analogous to if more extreme than many new forms developed in normal matter over the years. Nanotubes and graphene are examples, absent in nature (actually in the history of science.
the claim that something was absent in nature was usually one inviting refutation, so I will add to that ‘as far as we can detect’)
But specialized and precise nuclear matter such as AB-Matter would be most likely to never occur even with a universe of space and time to play with. The perfect linear forms net, grid, tube, plate are seldom encountered in nature even on the chemical scale (imperfect versions are common, even in living things.) Nucleons have a magnetic moment, as Bolonkin is fond of pointing out –they may be regarded as little magnets for certain purposes.
Wikipedia on the magnetic moment of an atom.
Suppose you dump a bunch of magnets on a table– you will get a clumpy pile. They clot together. But if you put magnets in a line corresponding to their poles, you get a long magnet in the form of a strong thread of magnets.
A rough analogy can be seen at TheNeoCube.com On Youtube you can search for neocube and neocube+gold and see tutorials of the difficult process of fitting attracted magnetic balls to linear forms and then assembling them in geometrical forms. This is of course only to get a sense of analogy. It is really really different on the nano level and far more so on the nuclear level. (And at present at least there are no ‘hands’ we can use to manipulate and assembleon the nano and femto levels)
We should understand that AB-Matter (sold by the gram) is unlikely to ever be as cheap as even exotic forms of ordinary matter. As Bolonkin states, One kg of gasoline (benzene) produces 44 MJ/kg energy. That means that (to produce– JF) 1 g of AB-Matter requires the equivalent energy of 17.4 tons of gasoline. (And that assumes 100% efficiency—JF) Of course with proper design a gram can go a long way.
Assuming AB-Matter and AB-Needles as a given possible, let’s think of possible uses for AB-Matter and AB-Needles.
Various cool possibilities if AB-Matter can be built include:
Impermeability (depends on the spacing of the nuclei) “. When the AB-Matter net has a step size between strings of less than atomic size of 10^-10 m, it becomes impenetrable for conventional matter. This includes incoming relativistic shrapnel at under 13% lightspeed
“Interpenetrability ghost-like passing through–depends on the spacing of the nuclei)“Permeable property (ghost-like intangibility power; super-passing capacity). The AB-Matter net from single strings having mesh size between strings of more than 10-11 m will pass the atoms and molecules through itself because the diameter of the single string (2×10^-15 m) is 100 thousand times less then diameter of atom (3×10^-10 m). That means that specifically engineered constructions from AB-Matter can be built on the Earth, but people will not see and feel them. The power to phase through walls, vaults, and barriers has occasionally been portrayed in science fiction but here is a real life possibility of it happening.“ … (also) “What we think of as solid matter contains a — relatively! –‘gigantic’ vacuum (free space) where the matter (nuclei) occupies but a very small part of the available space. Despite this unearthly emptiness, when you compress this (normal, non-degenerate) matter the electrons located in their orbits repel atom from atom and resist any great increase of the matter’s density. Thus it feels solid to the touch.”
Impenetrability (even proof against a nuclear blast) and near- invulnerability (Note: The G-forces from being near a nuclear blast can kill passengers even in an invulnerable ship:)
Great heat resistance (heliobraking at a million gravities to stop a starship in another star’s outer layers)– the limit is about 10 billion degrees Kelvin to destroy AB-Matter which means that many fusion fuel combinations can be done without any magnetic field nonsense, just straight contained in the AB-Matter vessel (as well as any nuclear radiation up to soft gammas–as long as the mesh size was smaller than the wavelengths blocked). (Given zero heat/thermal conductivity it cannot cool the nuclear plasma—nor be tapped directly , presumably a specialized AB-Matter tubing passthrough device, analogous to vacuum system passthroughs, would allow tapping the power) Of course, this kind of radiation filter (gammas only out) would be an interesting tool for measuring the prevalance of shorter than soft-gamma radiations on the other side of the AB-Matter shield. (Indeed such a gamma ray chamber would be a valuable scientific environment. Of course for safety you would want a few meters of regular matter shielding between the gamma ray chamber and anywhere people were.
Another thing about fusion– in today’s pathetic would-be thermonuclear reactors the accelerated or superheated fuel nuclei bounce at random with a miniscule chance of hitting another nucleus like themselves. Many collisions are needed to be paid for; the one that hits and fuses has to pay for all the rest. Thus reactors of the would be fusion kind tend to be expensive, complex and self-destroying (literally cannot take the heat, the radiation, etc) With an AB-Matter fusion reactor of certain designs the chances of a hit are hugely enhanced (giving the phrase ‘radiation channel’ a whole new meaning. Smaller sizes of fusion reactor may be possible, and larger ones than would be safe with ordinary matter as well.
It is interesting to contemplate high-speed bearings made of AB (Bolonkin) matter). (Of course the first customer would be the flywheel rocket engine makers!) Consider also that turbine blade systems made of these materials (contained within a ‘combustion chamber’) of the same material and positioned near the only exit might be able to tap the energy of a thermonuclear blast as we use compressed air storage today-would this make Project Pacer possible?
Even if only very large fusion reactors are possible the ability to store an small atomic bomb’s worth of energy in counter-rotated paired mini flywheels with the mass of a matchbox will ensure the energy is portable. It probably means an end to nuclear proliferation using uranium and plutonium as well. Why even bother?
On the positive side this would guarantee falling fuel prices, since that matchbox flywheel power pack could power a car around the world, or a plane, etc. It literally would pay to ship Jupiter rotational energy to Earth or direct Sun mined power (see below) in such matchbox-sized units, and perhaps market them to civilians with a limit of 100 kilograms (not kilotons) of gasoline equivalent per charge. Got a planet’s rotational energy in your tank?
Why counter-rotated mini flywheels? Otherwise you get the gyroscope effect as you try to walk with it and it pulls you away, resists your motion or rips through your pocket and flies out, depending, considering these energy levels. Search on YouTube for “gyroscopic effect” for demos. This “Square gyroscope” video
will show you the net effect of 4 non-counterrotated gyroscopes (rotary power tools)–they make alteration of direction difficult.
So these flywheel power packs would end fears about CO2 levels in the air from burning coal– at that point organic fuels would be for making plastics, lubricants, not burning except in isolated cases.
Other great possibilities of AB-Matter include:
Superconductivity by proper design.
Invisibility (depends on the spacing of the nuclei) “. An AB-Matter net having a step distance (mesh size) between strings or monofilaments of more than 10^-13 m will pass visible light having the wave length (400 – 800)×10^-9 m. “Frictionless surfaces by proper design. Think bearings, permanent lubricated surfaces (proof against any wear, heat etc)…
Super-strength (material objects) 10^23 times stronger than steel.
Super-lightness. Bolonkin gives a figure of an 1/100000th of an atom diameter AB-Matter thread suspending a man’s weight (allowing him to appear to fly unaided, for of course it would be invisible)
Presumably a thread could be designed to cut things like the kind of super mono-filament popular in Larry Niven’s science fiction stories. (Severing an asteroid to two clean halves like using a cheese cutting wire) This would be great for mining (wiresawing mountains in two).
Immunity to corrosion and material fatigue. The perfect (chemical) solvent could do nothing against nuclear matter. Casting molten titanium routinely (which dissolves rapidly all known oxide refractories) would be much easier. In fact, because of the heat resistance, casting all known refractories would be trivial, as would deep solar probes literally penetrating the fusing core of our daytime star.
Heat resistance for fantastic engine efficiency, Mach 12 atmospheric flight, better steel furnaces, nonconsumable mixing rods for molten alloys etc.
I also have thought of medical uses for AB-Matter and AB-Needles.
As I wrote in the English rewrite of Bolonkin’s paper, on the subject of going through normal matter with AB-Matter: actual collisions are surpassingly rare. Even when an AB-Needle contacts the conventional matter of a planet or the Sun, swirling in this sea of molecular space the AB-Needle can meet only very rarely any nucleus. But they are also charged positively as the AB-Needle itself and they will move away by electric force from the AB-Needle. So rather like a very long teaspoon, they can stir around between the particles of conventional matter but will not break off by collision.
We can penetrate into the human body by AB-Needle (cable from AB-Needles) without bodily damage. We reach any cells of the human body, however inaccessible, however presently inoperable, without bleeding. The tricky part would be a sensor package enveloped in if not made of AB-Matter (the equivalent of ultrasound scanning TV although I would be astonished if that were the actual mechanism to observe within the human body. To manipulate is more complicated.
Tuning the material for non-interaction with ordinary matter, we can probe everywhere but touch nothing. We can lance through a working heart or brain without effect or interaction. However, suppose surgery were needed in an otherwise inoperable area of the brain or inner organs. We could have a very small profile (microns or less) conventional matter pipe way and pierce the very cell in question. We can then suck out poisons or cancers via an angioplasty like probe snaked in, precisely input micro doses of drugs, position a micro oscillator to make vibrations in the midst of the problem cells, and have a probe with a with little “mouth” submarine that will head to vibration, eat those cells. Precise intelligence, precise execution with a stupid probe.
Cable cars to the planets!
A tramway based and motored on Earth, using these unearthly materials.
Computation of space flight to solar planets by AB-Matter space ship. The acceleration and deceleration have g = 10m/s2, mass of space ship is 3 tons.
Similar cableways all around the world, literally not visible or collidable with enabling any motorist to hook on and ride at say 180 mph above it all to your destination (and in a thermally shielded cab, around the world in a few hours.) So light that these aerial spider threads and their AB Needle support pillars can be carried under a copter or Harrier and new “roads” built not at miles per year but hundreds of miles per hour. Look at the mass of AB Cable above and recall that is to the planets; the Moon example shows that 240000 miles of cableway weighs under a kilogram!
The remarkable thing about AB-Needles is their unearthly stiffness. A truckload of steel girders will visibly sag in the middle under its’ own weight. A carbon fiber shovel handle is marvelously stiff and rigid, yet a very very long pole of it (say kilometers) will experience Euler buckling, noodle like bending to get out of the way of a load on top. Yet the AB-Needles if they can exist at all should be able to remain stiff as a short steel box girder– for astronomical units (multiples of the distance from the Earth to the Sun). This is a result of the gigantic internal stress of the AB-Needle, which is active along its entire length keeps it taut and extends it. This stress is less than the nuclear force which binds it (Bolonkin calls it the “attractive maximum nuclear force”) and crucially, it does NOT depend upon the length of the AB-Needle. If the compression force exerts itself in a given situation more than the extending force the AB-Needle need not break but might bend and continue to transmit the maximal pressing force.
In Bolonkin’s Arxiv paper on a space tower of 100 km height he gave a mass ratio for steel of 135 times tower weight to payload weight. Since an AB-Needle is way more than a trillion times stronger and more rigid than steel, one might think you could literally reach the stars with it—but remember that the Earth rotates. The end cannot travel faster than light speed, and after 1 million Earth radii you might think you would have problems. As Bolonkin explains in his article “Space Wing Electro Relativistic AB-Ship”). The speed time and distance measured in a moving and unmoving system are different (relative—relativity) But if light speed is never reached this still is am amazing way to drain rotational energy from a planet (by moving a load outward past escape velocity and not letting go as the potential speed increases. The energy donated at release will be drained from planetary spin, or orbital velocity around the Sun, or both. (see below in our discussion of despinning Jupiter)
According to a private communication with Bolonkin the end of an exceedingly long cable will tend to curve or bend; it is probably practical only within the greater Solar System. But this means we can drop off probes to anywhere at a good fraction of light speed (see below) and literally plume samples off nearly relatively slowly moving bodies using an AB Cable—from a laboratory on Earth! And then reel back captured dust samples. (As were captured by the recent comet and asteroid probes Stardust and Hayabusa)
Bolonkin has stated that:
“One meter of AB-Needle is a line having n = 5.7.10^14 nucleons with mass m = 1.67* 10^-27 kg. Total mass of one meter AB-Needle equals only 10^-12 kg/m.
One million kilometers of (single) AB-Needle weighs only 10^-3 kg. But it can support at extreme distance an end effector (AB-Hand) and push in compression 3 newtons, pull in tension 160 newtons before breaking point. A newton is the force of Earth’s gravity on a mass of about 102 grams. But this is a single string of nucleons! Theoretically you could space a box girder of many such strings (say a trillion, well spaced but parallel in a 1 million x 1 million matrix in an AB-Needle package far less than a millimeter in diameter capable of pushing 300 million tons and suspending in tension 16 billion tons. (with plenty of empty space within that millimeter.)
Suppose we could deploy this at will and at speed. What could we build?
A space elevator would be trivial, without a taper, and deployable in a single launch (because of the extreme strength to weight ratio. But with an AB-Needle, you wouldn’t even need to launch, you could just grow a few upward at Earth’s equator, sling a solar or nuclear powered climber-elevator between them and step off at geostationary, and you are in orbit. You could use an AB-Matter bicycle chain to power the elevator from the ground (but reeling and unreeling could get complicated, depends on your taste)
We could play games with permeability and impermeability of matter, being able to tailor the grid stepping (mesh size) to block or admit or reflect radiations with near perfect radiation. The great science fiction editor John Campbell was also a writer, under various names, and he wrote novels in the early 1930s that eerily presaged the capabilities of AB-Matter– in particular, in one story he had lux and relux– a perfect lens and a perfect mirror material respectively. Since no particle moving at less than 13% of lightspeed can penetrate an AB-Matter shield (though it can buck the shield around some!) could you set off a multi-ton flash bomb inside a mirror assembly and focus the power through a lens at a point target? Inquiring minds want to know! You could certainly do trivial things like make custom filters to allow one specific molecular weight and exclude another, but even nanotech can do that… desalting would be trivial, as would isotope separation for everyday uses (for instance, better electronics and tailored isotope chemistry)
Because AB-Needles (With sufficiently compact AB-Matter end effectors) can probe entirely through any planet, even on Earth no mineral secret would now be held back from us. We could mine exactly the amounts we needed at any depth. (With those not so easily developed heavy duty end effector tools!)
You could clean space junk out of orbit precisely using an AB needle matched for velocity, an AB_Hand end effector, and clean near-earth space of the objects from only a few sites; as the junk’s orbit passed over, it would be literally picked out of orbit (or alternatively vaporized to a form where the solar wind could blow it away)
Suppose an AB-Needle tether were to link Deimos, outer moon of Mars with the planet below, or very close to it. Deimos is not at geostationary— sorry, arestationary orbit, (20,430 km or so,) but it could be moved to be there. This tether is tailored for ordinary matter permeability. (Interpenetratability) Phobos orbits lower than Deimos, ordinarily it would run into the tether with catastrophic effects. Here it comes– and there it goes, and it is not in two pieces. The ghost-like effect of interpenetratability allows Phobos to pass at orbital speed. Kindly time the regular matter elevators and passengers for when Phobos is not there please!
Recent studies have shown that having Jupiter size planets is quite rare (a few percent) among solar systems. Jupiter represents an enormous reservoir of angular momentum, matter and energy. Supposing (for the sake of argument, though I certainly am not convinced of this) that there are competing expanding civilizations in the universe only a few percent may have such a resource as Jupiter in their home system from which all growth can radiate. This could be a competitive advantage for our incipient solar civilization. An AB-Needle skyhook (tether) could rise from Jupiter with no taper at all, a single millimeter’s width (note, many many strings in separated parallel) being able to lift the mass of a supertanker even in that titanic gravity well.
Because of the superpermeable capabilities of AB-Needles, you could pierce the core of Jupiter itself and grow the AB-Needle out the other side of Jupiter, join it to an orbital ring of AB-Matter, and Jupiter into the heart of a mighty flywheel which will tap that massive rotational energy (318 earth masses turning in 9.9 hours) With an orbital ring for support, we can start the process of mining the core of Jupiter for heavy elements (say 10 Earth masses worth), though any treasure brought up must be accelerated to the orbital speed of over 40 kilometers a second—around 16 times its weight in TNT of energy per unit mass brought up.
To understand the limits on this, we need to understand the issues of flinging something away by centripetal force.
Here’s a picture of the ratio of payload to tether as a multiple of characteristic speed from Wikipedia
For quartz for example characteristic speed is 1.8 km/sec. For AB-Matter (including obviously AB-Needles) it is around 13% of lightspeed or over 30,000 km/sec. So to accelerate something to 1/6th lightspeed is quite doable– to get much higher may rapidly become impossible.
For comparison, fission and fusion rockets
The limiting exhaust velocity of fusion is higher than fission which is limited to 1 to 3 percent. Fusion can get to 15 percent http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstellar_travel#Fusion_rockets. 10 pct might be doable, which means Alpha C mission in around 45 years. But instead of carting a tankers worth of nuclear fuel, the AB-Matter tether conserves these isotopes. (It may be you will need fusion to retro if you don’t like heliobraking, but there are other proposed ways) I hope nobody is going to suggest that aerocapture and more so heliobraking are as yet untried. You could debug the heliobraking (or better yet planetary atmosphere braking) part by practice shots from Jupiter’s AB-Matter tether to retro at Neptune. (Sure to be spectacular). Just don’t hit a deuterium rich pocket, or you may solve Fermi’s Paradox (Sun explosion article.) inadvertently…
Obviously the material of the heliobraking probe itself would be as layered as a Sun penetrator if ordinary matter or AB-Matter (Preferred, because you need to deal with the interstellar medium). Brr. Actually this gives a great cover for developing the kind of device Bolonkin feared. Another example of the dual edge sword of nuclear tech (reactors gives capability for bombs, etc)
With a tether-payload mass ratio of 1000 x the item being accelerated in the AB-Matter rotary tether the shot out item (star probe– star ship?) might get to under 30% of lightspeed, still not in the range of pronounced relativistic effects. On the other hand, it’s under 15 years to Alpha Centauri so if we had this, now we theoretically could develop hardy probes and AB-Matter penetration aids (shields) for the interstellar medium within the decade to launch star missions. The energy required would be very large, enough to power an navy ship around the world or, if you prefer, an atomic bomb per kilogram launched at such speeds so we might want to start small. 10,000 times the speed of chemical rocket exhaust, 100 million times the energy. It’s fun when you are picking destinations; not so much fun when you open your wallet to fill the gas tank…
But now Jupiter is paying for our energy expenditures! The rotational energy of Jupiter is astounding, just the leakage into the flux tube of Io (3 million tons of plasma, 1000 kg added a second) is 2-4 terawatts) as detailed here
The total rotational kinetic energy of Jupiter is enough to literally fling off probably an Earth Mass of material to escape and probably gigatons to 13% lightspeed. To send billion tons to 10% light speed (say 30000 km/sec) is about 10 million times more energy than Earth escape velocity.
The total mass of Jupiter is around 318 Earth masses. The speed at equator of its turning is 12.6 km/s. Even 1 earth mass of material (6 trillion trillion kg) at escape velocity (from EARTH) is ~1 week solar output according to Wikipedia. Gravitational binding energy of the Earth: 2.2405 * 10^32 kg m2 s-2
Assuming that the Earth is a uniform sphere (which is not correct, but is close enough to get an order-of-magnitude estimate) with M = 5.97 • 1024kg and r = 6.37 • 106m, U is 2.24 • 1032J. This is roughly equal to one week of the Sun’s total energy output. It is 37.5 MJ/kg, 60% of the absolute value of the potential energy per kilogram at the surface.
But to fling an earth mass from Jupiter would take around 30 times this or half a year’s solar output. We may estimate Jupiter’s rotational energy as about this order of magnitude.
The sun’s output per year. (Energy output scale at wikipedia)
1.2×10^34 Joules (watt seconds)=total energy output of the Sun each year.
This should be enough to launch on the order of one 10 millionth of an Earth mass to around 13% of lightspeed. So assuming AB-Matter is deployable on the scale in this article, the problem of starship propulsion is solved. It is more than enough to launch star probes and later automatic seeding ships (ala Larry Niven) to every sector of the Galaxy. (Making sure they survive their millennium long journeys will be one of the toughest engineering challenges of a coming age. But if we can engineer for deep time and biological stability at very cold temperatures, we can have a Galactic Survey and Earth-biosphere seeding of the Galaxy, planting algae and other revived freezables to generate oxygen on a good fraction (say) of a billion planets so any future human explorers find worlds with oxygen to breathe. If our robotic probes can survive and stay faithful to their mission and reconstruct genetic reconstitution labs we could find complete ecospheres with fully grown trees and edible fish in the oceans, good lumber trees on the hilltops, bison and grass on the plains, everywhere in the Galaxy that can support them. We can take a note from Davy Crockett and send raccoons and deer so our pioneers can make coonskin caps and buckskin jackets. (Now and then expeditions fail and it would be cool to have a backup plan other than die horribly in such a contingency)
A nanotech means of suspending life functions in humans would mean that we could settle the Galaxy at around 13% lightspeed, on the order of a million years. And if 3% of Earthlike solar systems have a Jupiter clone that means 97% do not, so we may have a comparative advantage as toward Earth spreading life throughout the Galaxy, if it is empty and open to us…
To completely disassemble Jupiter would take about 8885 times the energy to disassemble the Earth (318 earth masses times about 28 times the energy per kilogram to escape) centuries of the spendable fraction of captured solar output Dyson sphere at wikipedia (but to only mine the vital 10 earth masses of heavy elements or 1 Mars mass of really scarce elements would take far less and be eminently doable over sufficient time. Because AB-Needles can probe entirely through any planet, (more below) we could mine exactly the amounts we needed at any depth. We might take out the useful heavy elements and keep the great majority (hydrogen, helium, oxygen) of atoms where they are, inside Jupiter. (This will supply rotational energy tappable in the long AB-Needle skyhooks radiating around the Jovian Orbital Ring like the (very thin!) spokes of a huge wagon wheel. Disassembling the moons would also follow and the end form of Jupiter would look like a big bicycle wheel, the center of mass is the tiny 10-earth-wide dot of Jupiter’s remaining mass (mostly hydrogen and helium) at the center of spokes that were AB-Matter supported pathways to the orbiting rim built of conventional mined heavy elements.
Once Jupiter’s rotational energy is totally exhausted we can use it as a massive counterweight to suspend massive AB-Needle based power installations on a gigantic scale directly over the Sun. But that is further in the future. (And as we shall see Mercury is better positioned) Let’s discuss ‘conventional’ AB-Needle derived solar power first as executed from our own present-day Earth.
It is not beyond question that a means may be devised to tap solar power directly from the surface of the Sun or even below it to generate power on Earth directly from the Sun’s intense (~62 megawatt/m2) surface heat,—there, solar power is ~60,000 times more intense than solar power on the surface of the Earth. (~about 45,000 times that in space around the Earth) This direct tapping of solar power would hold the prospect of solving all world energy problems for fixed installations.
Such a way to directly tap solar power popped into my head:
Forget all this nonsense of trying to tap the .7 kilowatts on Earth’s cloudy surface during the day only with dilute and expensive equipment. Let’s use the stiffness of an AB-Needle to access space– from Earth’s surface. (For purposes of canceling Earth’s rotation, let’s say from an AB-matter space tower sticking up from the non-rotating Nouth Pole. Although it would be more elegant to literally reach the coronasphere and tap solar plasma directly, there is no need– we can do as follows– grow an AB-Needle toward the Sun carrying as payload an ordinary matter boiler/turbine of tungsten or material to be heated with AB Needle cable directly to not far from the Solar surface (62 megawatts/square meter) and boil say magnesium instead (1100C) or iron (3000 C) or other dense material to provide compact power in few cubic meters. (Steam is not dense compared to supercritical carbon dioxide, which can put out a gigawatt in a turbine the volume of a panel van. Iron vapor should be denser still…) To get re-condensation we will need to radiate the heat away, no mean trick say a million miles above the solar surface—radiation is by 4th power of temperature difference so with an AB-Matter sunshade we could have a vast area of darkness around the exposed boiler for a good radiator. Something at ten times the temperature loses heat at 10,000 times the speed. What might the efficiency be? 50%? Even 10% would pay.
The turbine suspended above the Sun (probably with a piggyback solar observatory) would turn an AB-Matter bicycle chain going back along the AB-Needle to the Earth based polar tower, from there by similar but lighter AB-Matter bicycle chain in a vast octupus of a network of belt transmission overhead lines to other space towers near major power markets around the globe. So we have an idea for a belt system from the poles of earth to a suspended over the Sun station, driving AB-Matter belts in series from just over the turning Sun to the mother tower on Earth and to other 100 km high towers 500 km apart all way to major areas of civilization, the Sun turbine directly driving the earth generators. A crazy analogy to an 1880s factory– one engine which is the Sun– many machines (generators) run by belts on surface at an Earth pole, giant generators turn AB-Matter belts in each country, ie Russia, Mongolia, Tibet, India going south. And so on across the longitudes of the great globe.
One of these belts would go near your town (maybe a state over) and the power would make its’ way to you via local flywheel buffers so a power reserve was available if the system went down for a bit.
So the Sun would power the Earth, day and night, recharging our AB-Matter pocket flywheel matchbox sized power packs. The limit of power transmittable in a few centimeters cross section of AB-Matter must be many terawatts– I have not calculated it.
We could also directly dump any very long life nuclear isotopes that were worrisome into the Sun– or mine the Sun itself if willing to. We could directly send boilers full of material to be distilled directly to solar surface (example from a Moon polar tower) then reel them back in at end. What is the cost for such transport in kilowatt hours I wonder? Bringing Solar material to Solar escape velocity 617.7 km/sec vs 11.2 km/sec for Earth and 59.2 km/sec for Jupiter– is around 3000 times more energy intensive than bringing Earth material to Earth escape velocity. (In other words providing heat locally would be far easier with a fraction of the energy) Mining Jupiter is far easier (108 times easier) than mining the Sun even neglecting the 10 times greater surface gravity and so mining Jupiter will be done first. Wikipedia cites the figure that lifting solar material from the surface of the Sun to infinity requires 2.1 × 10^11 J/kg.
Needless to say, with AB-Needles proof against 10 billion K we could probe the solar interior. We could learn wondrous things about the inner workings of a star. But we would not like to poke a macro hole into our star. No. A probe about the width of a few atoms should suffice.
This is a way to profit from another project: The de-spinning of Jupiter. At first Jupiter has served our needs as a cosmic flywheel, after its’ rotational energy is exhausted can serve as a cosmic counterweight for great future engineering projects. We can still tap its orbital energy but as this was done and starships released from a sufficient distance sapped more and more energy from it, the king of planets would start retroing in toward the Sun—and us! Only a fool would bring Jupiter too close unless something drastic was happening to the Sun, which it will within a billion years, absent Dr. David Criswell’s proposed Sun Lifting (mining the sun to lessen its burn rate and husband the fuel for a trillion years)
To put it bluntly, someday the Sun will enter its’ Red Giant phase, destroying life on Earth, and there are only a few ways to avoid this fate: Leave for elsewhere, Sun Lifting to lengthen the burn on the Solar fuse, a sunshield which it fails could mean the end of the Earth, (and could only work if the Sun did not actually expand to engulf the Earth) –and move the Earth and Moon themselves away from the sun. That last is what we can use Jupiter for once its’ spin energy is exhausted.
If we keep using Jupiter’s orbital speed around the Sun to launch starships, Jupiter will grow ever sunward and whatever is in the asteroid belt, Mars and then Earth- Moon can escape by gravity assist—possibly on interstellar voyages lasting billions of years, with an artificial illumination system to keep it warm. (Almost certainly within a heat retention envelope) . The mined out hulk of Jupiter will thus serve a final task in deep time to come. If the abandoned Solar System witnesses the collision of Jupiter and the Sun it will be because the orbital energy was tapped too deeply; the resulting cosmic flare would be impressive indeed and visible to instruments across some fraction of the Galaxy.
But let us return to our own time. With AB-Matter we can play games with Mercury. Imagine taking apart Mercury, circularizing its’ orbit and using the vast fleet of machines marketed as “The Cosmic Body Formerly Known As Mercury But Despun And In A Circular Orbit”(TM) is a counterweight to build a massive apparatus I call a Friedlander Sphere.
This is basically a tricked-out Dyson sphere
which as you know is traditionally portrayed as a fleet of solar collectors around the sun, sometimes with a hole for the poles, sometimes not. However, the reason it is discontinuous is because, as Dyson himself noted fifty years ago, its’ dynamically impossible to have a solid sphere around the sun. (The strength of materials will not permit it). However, AB-Matter should be able to do the following:
Use the despun, circularized Mercury as a massive counterweight to suspend a thin AB-matter globular grid around the Sun which is NOT in orbit but tethered (dynamically linked) to the despun, circularized Mercury which is much farther out, hung like a chandelier, dynamically unstable except for AB-Matter’s strength. So basically say the despun, circularized Mercury is about at 35 million miles out. It suspends a much smaller sphere of refractory collectors suspended from the thin AB-matter globular grid, which itself is suspended by AB-Needles using the despun, circularized Mercury as a counterweight. The whole purpose of the Friedlander Sphere is to tap the whole energies of the Sun (tens of trillions of times what we are using now—the full 384.6 yottawatts (3.846 × 10^26 watts of the Sun’s output) BUT without the vast material use occasioned by a Earth distance Dyson sphere (the whole Earth would be material for about a centimeter thickness at one AU). Suppose the Friedlander Sphere were at .05 AU it would require 1/400th the material. At some compromise of distance and temperature the material balance will become buildable (ie the rare elements will be abundant enough to do the job in the traces required) Very probably all the active mechanisms could be on the cool, radiating side. Power would be extracted by the AB-Matter bicycle chains (although obviously by that time more advanced means would probably be available)
The Friedlander Sphere thus is blocking all light from Sun EXCEPT where humans need it, switched by opening ‘windows’ with the appropriate light speed delay so Earth always experiences sunlight, and any other place that needs it, but as soon as it orbits on, the old window closes and the new one opens to assure Earth continuous sunlight. (Please don’t object that there is a little potential for cosmic blackmail here–on this engineering level trust is literally a matter of life and death, just as today we trust the police in every town with enough ammunition to kill everyone in that town.) All other light is captured, used, only letting out the lights planets or other space installations need.
I am not sure what effect that total confinement of solar radiation in a light trap would have, I am thinking of multireflection. At a guess the Sun would heat up locally, expand, and if this were science fiction we could also enclose it in a giant lasing cavity to produce a beam to vaporize planets for mining, or perhaps massive CMES http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronal_mass_ejection to gather mass or Star Lifting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_lifting but I don’t think real life works that way, just as well too. Our lives basically depend on the Sun staying constant, only a fool would mess with it without being absolutely sure what he was doing. But then one sign of a fool is that he is always quite sure about what he is doing…
One penalty we would like to avoid: Just sayin’. https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2010/01/sun-explosion.html
Although I have spoken thus far of growing an AB-Needle (synthesizing it in place,) you may be wondering how an AB-Needle would be deployed.
(If too stiff to unreel (roll out from a coil) could it be made like many “switchblades” with nuclear-sized hinge to spring open to ‘rigid position? Not that complicated:
When we reel in the spool we spend energy. When we unwind the spool, we get energy as force (pull). So AB-Needles actually can be a gigantic power storage mechanism, too.
Thinking about this gave me ideas about tunneling, into the Earth and other planets as well.
Today tunneling and mining is dangerous and unpredictable and only a fraction of the resource is accessible (incomplete information and access difficulties) . In the future it may be easy and rewarding and a matter of looking for exactly where the known deposit is and then removing perhaps 95% of it with machine guided ease.
With the great heat resistance we might melt our way to the deposits. Is an AB-Needle cable ‘heat pipe’ possible? Imagine AB-Needles on the perimeter of an AB-Matter tube whose function is to channel plasma— similar to the hohlraum (radiation chamber) of a hydrogen bomb— from an outside source, perhaps on the surface of a planet, perhaps from a fusion reactor (which AB-Matter makes easy, see above) form. Could this super hot pipe, with surface of heat-conducting AB-Matter (transparent because of grid size at one end, but still indestructible) perhaps at tens of thousands of degrees, rapidly penetrate rock, the full force of the plasma being channeled to the tunneling end? The only way out from the plasma chamber would be through the rock because the AB-Matter the other way is perfectly impenetrable and reflecting.
Or perhaps melting is unnecessary. Suppose we have a AB-Probe at the head of an AB-needle cable—if sufficiently small, as mentioned it can push through entire planets. Even if larger, but enclosing incompressible conventional matter within an AB-Matter protective shell, it could be a means to force instrumentation literally to the core of the Earth. With a rigid AB-Needle ‘pushing’ from back, this is buildable but needs to push aside conventional matter. A high pressure motor on surface can ‘force’ probe down to flow through rocks. An achievable rate of descent for say 1 cm diameter probe pushed by AB-Needle and with millions of horsepower behind it might be measured in miles per hour straight down. And the center of the Earth is only 4000 miles away—and the AB-Matter shell is impenetrable and heat-shielding.
I discussed these ideas of mine with Bolonkin who agreed that the ability to see where you are going and tailor tunneling to the conditions for it would be a killer early application. (Being able to plan as you tunnel instead of just adapting to conditions—no cave ins, no floods, no surprise voids…)
Suppose we can reach the core of the Earth with such AB-Matter devices
what might be on the way there? At the very least, Iron, nickel, cobalt, PGMs–Platinum Group Metals (like iron meteorites)., but if Professor Herndon’s theory of the Georeactor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georeactor was deleted but try http://www.nuclearplanet.com/Q&A%20Earth’s%20Georeactor.html and http://www.nuclearplanet.com/Herndon’s%20Nuclear%20Georeactor.html ) is correct, there may be huge deposits of Uranium and Thorium (and generated Pu) in Earth’s core! (At a guess, a few orders of magnitude more than the 3 gigatons of U in the oceans see the diagram here and recall the density of nuclear heavy metal! http://www.nuclearplanet.com/georeactor%20×480.jpg) The subcore is the U and Th, the sub-shell apparently the fission products of ages past) However this can be dangerous to mine because of what happens if the pressure at core wishes to come up the pipeway! (By analogy but much shallower several to (some say) 150 km deep are diamond blowouts http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volcanic_pipe and possible deep methane blowouts (Google “verneshot”) analogous to the shallow methane blowouts postulated by Ryskin in 2003—Google “northwestern methane 2003 10,000 gigatons ryskin”) Basically on short time scales the Earth we dwell on appears stable but over deep time it is no such thing.
If this huge pressure is breached, the physics of a fountain of Earth Core matter (iron or uranium—like an oil ‘gusher’) would be most disturbing to contemplate. I am guessing no on this one, but given that we can probe by AB-Needle a few atoms wide to measure the pressure directly it may be it can be done safely. However removing material from the very core of the Earth—by definition—would undermine everything above it at least very slightly. The pressure there is 3 million atmospheres (the bottom of the deepest ocean is 1100 atmospheres and you need 4” steel walls around you for protection there). Let us hope that whoever messes with this knows what he is doing…(Bolonkin does not share my fears on this because the average density of core material is denser than other materials closer to the surface. I have seen figures of a specific gravity of 12-13 for inner core material)
Of course this Earth Core material is hotter than the surface of the Sun, but AB-Matter can shield conventional matter tools from that heat, and directly scoop up the material, or give it a conduit to the surface of controllable size. But with the entire volume of the Earth to play with, there are many other sites of interest closer to our feet above. Warning: Note that Herndon’s Georeactor theory is controversial, and if true removing sufficient uranium and thorium would stop the georeactor (render it subcritical) and (by that theory) the Earth’s magnetic field—(one of the principal hooks of the theory is, it accounts for rapid magnetic field reversals because of the small size of the postulated Georeactor) and our protection from atmosphere-affecting space events. Do we really want to see how bad a cessation of the Earth’s magnetic field would be? I’m guessing no.
Closer to the surface, where Man already tunnels and mines, (most mineral surveys only consider the top kilometer of crust) let us consider a more conventional AB-Needle tunneling system. The goal is to rapidly disintegrate and remove the hardest available rock. Configuration is 14 meters circle 100 square meters face of tunnel, 100 x 100 or 10000 AB-Needle cables facing forward with AB-Matter cap to push aside ordinary matter rock. Total is 1 million AB-Needle cables tailored for contact with ordinary matter.. Hydraulic rams on tunneler push forward, it is irresistible, cannot be harmed, ordinary matter is pushed aside. Since separation is 1 mm, (actual width of AB-Matter cap might be only few nanometers) hardest rock fractures and crumples to sand, is vaccumed out for rapid penetration forward.
Because of the heat limitation removal and the rapid penetration rates, its probable that even deep crustal or high mantle rocks alone could maintain needed minerals for the foreseeable future (not petroleum because of the ‘oil window’ heat limit, but probably abiotic gas as exists in many other places in the solar system such as Mars Titan and all the giant planets (and probably Venus)) Remember Ryskin’s theory and remember the Verneshot theory and recall the papers that show mechanisms of mantle methane generation by the chemistry of pressure heat water rocks and time—one example being this — It could well be that by mining the methane in advance we actually are defusing a natural ticking bomb that could have caused great harm in the future. But that’s the thing about AB-Matter—the million times greater strength and binding force open a million times the possibilities, for danger or for good.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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