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Nanotech in space can provide mankind with a range of timely, cost-effective and multi-use enabling technologies to mitigate climate change. One approach is described below.
February 12th, 2010
There is another geo-engineering solution for cooling earth that merits attention, which the Financial Times overlooked in its 17th Dec. 2009 article "Sun shield" (Science Briefing, via link ).
Through targeted tax breaks and robust government R&D grants the global nanotech industry can be instantly stimulated to fast-track the development of orbiting sun abatement materials and systems. These will be more cost effective (aside from their multi-use probabilities), more politically viable (due to the absence of property rights conflicts), and hence more quickly deployable than positioning reflectors throughout the world as proposed by Peter Irvine and his fellow researchers at the University of Bristol. For more on that latter initiative see Environ. Res. Lett. 4 (2009) via link .
Thus properly incentivized, within a mere lifetime nanotechnology could well advance to the point where ‘buckeyballs' and ‘buckeywires' can be mass-produced (ideally from space-based commercial platforms). The resulting microstructure filaments would be programmed to self-align into vast micro-thin sheets. Enormous arrays of those remotely controllable and steerable ‘solar ribbons', ‘sun ribbons', ‘space ribbons', ‘nano sieves' and ‘nano buckets' could be interconnected and then positioned in sun-synchronous orbits to ever-so-slightly filter, absorb or otherwise reduce the warming effects of our Sun's infrared and ultraviolet ray emissions.
I favor employing pulse lasers (collocated within each huge array of interconnected solar ribbons) to regularly fire stored energy bursts to a few hundred Earth-based receiving / collection fields. An adjacent ground station at each collection field would step-down and distribute that energy to substations and customers connected to smart grids via ‘nanowires'. Those highly efficient nanowires will lose precious little energy compared to today's crude and incredibly leaky high-voltage transmission lines, which have evolved little since the 1890s.
Imagine the photonic energy-gathering potential of multiple nearly-contiguous 250,000 km2 arrays that can operate 24/7, largely autonomously, with near-zero maintenance. Who will need polluting fossil fuels then?