Cloud Cities: Our Green Jovian Future
Cloud cities are just the thing for gas giant mining colonies. Consider the mining operation on Bespin, in the Star Wars universe:
Suspended high among the pastel clouds of Bespin, held aloft by huge repulsorlifts built into its curved frame, is a floating metropolis of sophisticated beauty and political freedom.
The city is disk-shaped, with the upper concourse covered in circular landing platforms and towering spires. Beneath the city's belly is an immense spire that ends in a bulbous unipod. The interior corridors and plazas of the city are spotless white and chrome, providing an airy feel even when indoors.
These pristine malls conceal the industrial heart of Cloud City. The gas processing facilities, smelting rooms and carbon-freezing chambers of the airborne city aren't as aesthetically pleasing, but they are modern and efficient.
(Cloud City on Bespin [Star Wars databank])
(Cloud City above Bespin in Star Wars)
But what could possibly exist in real-world gas giants that we might want, you ask? Well, how about ultra-dense deuterium, for one thing, which is suspected in the depths of Jupiter, right here in our own solar system. Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen that is found in large quantities in water; more than one atom per ten thousand hydrogen atoms has a deuterium nucleus, and is used in nuclear reactors in the form of heavy water. (Update: An indignant reader has requested more information about ultra-dense deuterium. He or she is right: I hate being accused of writing some sort of light-weight tech blog. Get more science in the ultra-dense deuterium comments.)
Imagine a material [namely, ultra-dense deuterium] so heavy that a cube with sides of length 10 cm weights 130 tonnes, a material whose density is significantly greater than the material in the core of the Sun.
So, what can you do with ultra-dense deuterium, laboriously mined from the depths of mighty Jupiter? How about laser-driven nuclear fusion?
(Ultra-dense deuterium fusion
The white glow in the container in the center
of the photograph is from deuterium.)
“One important justification for our research is that ultra-dense deuterium may be a very efficient fuel in laser driven nuclear fusion. It is possible to achieve nuclear fusion between deuterium nuclei using high-power lasers, releasing vast amounts of energy”, says Leif Holmlid, Professor in the Department of Chemistry, University of Gothenburg.
“Further, we believe that we can design the deuterium fusion such that it produces only helium and hydrogen as its products, both of which are completely non-hazardous. It will not be necessary to deal with the highly radioactive tritium that is planned for use in other types of future fusion reactors, and this means that laser-driven nuclear fusion as we envisage it will be both more sustainable and less damaging to the environment than other methods that are being developed.”
Want green power? Embrace cloud cities.
See also this example of another (fictional) cloud city right in our own solar system (thanks, Perry), as well as information about Tibanna gas mined on Bespin, which bears some interesting coincidental similarities with ultra-dense deuterium (thanks, Yossi). Sources: Ultra-dense Deuterium May Be Nuclear Fuel Of The Future via io9; thanks to Armisius for the tip.
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