Climate change is a fact, as is the associated global warming, which is why scientists, organizations and experts from all over the world are constantly searching for a solution to the problem. One of these, perhaps a little extreme (and expensive), could be that of block the sun’s rays. Science fiction?
First we must start from the assumption that such a project, eventually, would be an epochal undertaking, on a global scale as never seen before. In fact, it would take at least 400 dedicated rocket launches a year, and for at least a decade. Furthermore, it would be a real “ecological experiment” that would put everyone, the entire planet, in a petri dish at high risk, especially if something were to go wrong.
Conscious, therefore, gods risks/benefits of such an undertakingsome Luxembourg researchers have presented their project hypotheses in an interesting study, which will soon see publication on the pages of Acta Astronautica.
Experts Olivia Borgue and Andreas Hein, fielding the most futuristic technologies in the engineering field, described some of the materials sciences necessary to make such an epochal enterprise a reality. Emphasizing how, the most realistic version possible, would not be a “huge parasol or a mega-umbrella”but hundreds of small elements arranged as in a swarm.
Obviously, one of the most limiting factors for the success of such a project would be its mass, its enormous amount of components with the relative costs of putting them into orbit. For this reason, the authors proposed an ultra-lightweight materialmade of a thin film and silicon dioxide nanotubes, with a “transparent refractive surface” to redirect sunlight.
Also, given that the structure would be shaped like a sail, another problem to avoid would be that it is pushed out of position (perhaps in deep space) by solar radiation pressure. To fix this drawback, it was then proposed a design capable of minimizing this pressureredirecting sunlight rather than blocking it.
Finally, the authors suggested placing “The Swarm” in the Lagrange point L1on the line between the Earth and the Sun, so as to allow to block between 2 and 4 percent of sunlight which, again according to Borgue and Hein, it would be enough to bring the Earth’s temperatures back to pre-industrial levels.
What do you think of an engineering work of such proportions? Could there be unexpected negative consequences?
Speaking of solar sails, a new method of spaceflight has recently been proposed, which examines several futuristic technologies, just like the recently completed Lightsail 2 mission.
Image credits: NASA