Monday, September 8, 2008

Fixing Carbon

On September 19th, at 9:00 pm, the last episode of Project Earth, Fixing Carbon, will debut.

In Fixing Carbon the Project Earth will test machines and filtering devices which will be able to extract carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. It will then be able to store the excess carbon dioxide underground where it will not effect the atmosphere any more.

This carbon fixing technology is considered to be the holy grail of climatologists.

Orbital Power Plant

Immediately following Space Sunshield, Project Earth Orbital Power Plant will debut.

In this episode, the Project Earth team will attempt to test state-of-the-art solar cells in near Space. If these solar cells are able to be deployed in near Space, solar cells will be able to five times as much energy as solar cells on the ground.

The premise is to launch thousands of satellites that will be able to convert the solar energy into microwave energy. This microwave energy will be able to be collected by antennas on the ground that will be able to convert the energy into electricity.

Updates from this episode of Discovery Project Earth:

To be edited later...

The Earth's atmosphere scatters and absorbs about 50% of the Sun's energy. Clouds and obviously the night block the suns rays even further. These two negatives alone keep solar cells from performing under optimal circumstances.

The Project Earth Team has two objectives in this episode. They need to engineer microwave power to transport energy miles away and they need to find solar cells for space. ENTECH

The team expects to use solar concentrators to be used on the solar cells to boost their effectiveness. 8x more effective

The solar cell will be launched to 100,000 feet above the ground. Two solar cells to be launched. One control solar cell without a solar concentrator and one solar cell with a concentrator. The lenses and arrays needed to endure temperatures 100 degrees below zero.

At 35,000 feet, the Sun's energy is 25% stronger.
At 60,000 feet, the temperature falls to -106 degrees.
At 106,000 feet balloon froze and the experiment ends.

A single square yard of solar cells in space can account for the energy usage of a three person family.

8 times more power with the fernel(spelling) lense.

the microwave power will need to travel 22,000 miles. data acquisition.

The project earth team tries many different tests for their microwave power idea. They span twelve feet, 150 feet and 60 miles, the actual depth of atmosphere that the microwaves would have to pass through.

To be edited later...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Space Sunshield

Out of the entire Project Earth series, this idea seems to be the most expensive and hardest to accomplish. Currently, I do not know how they plan to engineer the space sunshield it self or how they expect it to get into space but the sunshield seems unfeasible before seeing their ideas.

All knowledge of costs and time to implement aside, the Space Sunshield idea is to setup a network of mirrors in space to reflect some of the Sun's light from shining on Earth warming it further. If they can get their plan in motion, they expect that these mirrors will be able to reflect the sun rays and slow down global warming.

This idea is very similar to the Brighter World episode. The main similarity is reflecting the Sun's light away from Earth. The difference is sending mirrors up into space.

You can catch Project Earth, Space Sunshield on the Discovery Channel on September 12th at 9PM EST.

Updates from the episode:

Apparently, I was thinking too much on spending money on space agencies on launching these lenses, I wasn't thinking of smaller private individuals who use small rockets.

If only 2 percent of the sun's rays are redirected, this would be able to bring global temperatures back down to preindustrial eras.

The original lens was two inches thick and about one foot in diameter. The engineer's idea calls for 16 trillion lenses to be launched. Aside from the costs of labor and production, the cost to launch these lenses would cost one million trillion dollars to launch. Enough to bankrupt the world for a very long time.

The Discovery Project Earth team was able to scale the lenses down to make them 1 micron thick instead of his current two inch think lenses. They were successful in shrinking the lenses on a sheet of silicon.

In order to get the sun refracting lenses into space, the team first tried to use a coil gun. They proved that the coil gun can work but they hope that using traditional, proven rocket technology will be able to control variables better than a system that launches at over 1,000 g force.

Rocket technology on the other hand only causes about 25g. The only problem with using rockets for a launch is that the force of 25g's are in all directions because of the rumbling of the rockets.

Unfortunately for the team, the rocket crashed. Everything was destroyed, they were not even able to retrieve pictures or film from inside the rocket monitoring the lenses. The entire experiment was a large failure. The Project Earth team can now only speculate "IF" their experiments worked.

Based on vague, hypothetical ideas, they came to the conclusion that the sunshield would be able to actually reverse global warming but only if our carbon dioxide levels are reduced.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hungry Ocean

In the sixth episode of the Project Earth series, Hungry Ocean, airing right after Infinite Winds, the team is back to test a new theory about eliminating dead zones from our oceans.

The team plans to experiment with large pumps to basically filter the ocean thus allowing better oxygen retention. If the ocean can hold oxygen better, populations of fish and phytoplankton can rebound in these areas. If the Project Earth team can succeed in bringing life to dead zones, the zones will be able to absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide.

updates from the show:
I was very wrong with my initial thinking...

Oceans absorb almost half of our current co2 emissions. The cause of this is not actually the ocean it self, but the life in the ocean. Phytoplankton is a type of plant that thrives in nutrient rich oceans. All plants use basic nutrients and carbon dioxide to grow. When the phytoplankton die, their bodies fall to the ocean floor and the carbon that they used to grow stays in the bodies removing carbon from the atmosphere.

The identified problem shown by this episode is that there are many places in the ocean where currents of water do not circulate from the ocean depths to the surface. If water was brought up with pumps from the nutrient rich ocean bottom, the pumps can promote plankton growth.

The Project Earth team plans on using pumps attached to buoys. The buoys will float on the surface of the ocean and the water pumps will dangle 1000 feet below. Between the pump and the buoy is a long tarp in the shape of a straw.

The pump design is very simple, there are no mechanical moving parts. Only the natural movement of waves is needed to pump the water up. The pump is a one way valve, only allowing water to go in the bottom. When the wave is at its lowest point, water is gulped into the pump. When the wave begins to pull the buoy back up, the valve closes and water is pulled up. This happens with every wave creating a very effective pump.

The team's results were mixed. Unfortunately, both pumps broke after they were deployed. The failures were chalked up to poor engineering in the welds that held the tarps together.

The first pump failed completely, it did not pump at all. Fortunately, the second pump did indeed work for a little longer then a half of a day.

The second pump actually proved the concept worked. Their sensors showed cooler water flowed up through the tubes for the limited amount of time that they worked.

If they get their design fixed, they may actually have a very good idea here.

The only concerns with this experiment are unwanted, toxic algae blooms.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Infinite Winds

The fifth episode of Discovery's Project Earth, airing September 5th at 9pm EST, is called Infinite Winds. Infinite Winds is based on the idea that winds on the surface of the Earth are slowed down by obstacles on the ground. This makes it less ideal for wind turbines on the ground. If wind power generators are somehow placed in high altitudes, they will produce more power since wind speed is greater.

The Project Earth team demonstrates this idea by floating wind power generators high above the ground. I'm not quite sure exactly how they will be accomplishing this idea, but I can take a couple of guesses.

Perhaps the team will some sort of a blimp or balloon to get a long cord with numerous wind turbines spread across the cord. If this cord is anchored to the ground, this will allow the wind turbines to transfer their power to the power grid.

Or, maybe the Project Earth team will create a ladder mill wind power generator. A ladder mill is comprised of a looped cord with wings spaced out across it. The wings going up provide lift which lifts the cord up and the wings going down provide drag pulling the cord down. This cord can help spin turbines on the ground to produce electricity.

There are a few ideas going around, let's see their plan in action.

Update from the show:

According to the Project Earth team, their plan is to engineer a new type of wind turbine that can be deployed high above the ground where surface obstacles do not interfere with wind currents.

After several tests, the team determined if they can send a large balloon filled with helium, more precisely a "rotating airship," and have it spin on its horizontal axis, they will be able to produce power. This is due to constant strong upper level winds. Their target for the placement of the rotating airship is between 300 and 1,000 feet above the ground. If they don't send the airship high enough, surface winds produce turbulence since many obstacles on the ground can change the direction of the wind.

The team would like to test their Infinite Winds theory with a one ton rotating airship 300 feet in the air tethered to the ground where the energy produced by its generators will be fed into the power grid.

Before they can try their large scale test, the Project Earth team tests several models in a GM wind tunnel.

Initial tests show that their first model would not work too well. The first model had no stabilization rudder and because of this, the model not only spun on its horizontal axis, it also spun on its vertical axis. This made the model spin uncontrollably.

The next model used three rudders, one in the middle and two at each end. This, like the first model, was not designed well. It spun uncontrollably as well.

The third and final model finally passed the wind tunnel test. The final model used a single rudder in the center. The single rudder helped keep air pressure high near the center of the turbine and allowed it to spin with precision.

The tether for the rotating airship is made with strands of copper wrapped inside vectran fibers. Vectran fibers are plastic based fibers that are very light and are super strong. Nine-tenths of an inch in diameter of vectran fibers can hold over six tons of weight.

As the team began producing their final test, they realized that the model could be further refined. Instead of straight edges the final model used chevron shaped blades. Using this design the chevron shaped blades will put further pressure on the central rudder stabilizing the turbine further.

Although with the many flaws, the design was considered successful. The model produced 200 watts of electricity.

After the success, the team considered what if this idea was perfect and it caught on with society. If they made 1.1 million aerial turbines at 1.5 mega watts each, it would be able to replace over 1,000 coal power plants. If they made even more, 9.5 million more, it would replace 15,000 coal power plants and save up to 85% of current carbon emissions.

The logistics and refining the technology are the major drawbacks. In order to make 9.5 million airships, 430,000,000,000 cubic meters of helium are necessary which is twenty-five times more than the current rate of production. If they can overcome these obsticles, they may have a way to harness wind energy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Brighter World

Brighter World premieres right after Raining Forests at 10pm August 29th on the Discovery Channel.

Brighter World plays on the fact that bright white water vapor clouds reflect sunlight back into space better than oceans or land, thus resulting the effect of global warming. This phenomenon is called global dimming and many scientists and professors have noticed this effect before.

In this episode, the Project Earth team tries to expand on the idea of creating man-made clouds in order to prevent the Earth absorbing excess sunlight causing global temperatures to rise. The team hopes that the clouds that are produced will help reduce the temperatures on Earth since less sunlight is being absorbed by the ground.

Updates from the show: The idea for this Project Earth episode is to geoengineer regular clouds. The plan is to use sea water to redistribute the molecules of water in clouds to redirect more sunlight back into space.

Regular clouds only reflect about 50% of sunlight back into space. The team expects that if very small salt particles are used inside the water droplets of clouds, this will reflect another 10% of sunlight back into space. Ten percent may seem like a very small amount however the amount of particles needed will need to be 4 times as many in a square inch.

The team would like to create Marine stratoculumus clouds. These clouds form between 200 and 400 feet above water. These clouds are ideal since marine stratoculumus clouds do not produce rain clouds since they are so low to the ground.

The Project Earth team ran into a problem though. They could not generate small enough particles using their proposed water jet theroy. The water particles averaged 14 microns across. Their goal was to create particles about 1 micron.

The team then moved onto another idea. They tested salt flares to see how small the particles were. They found out that the particles were less than 1 micron across making them ideal to test a geoengineered cloud.

The project used 300 flares set off simultaneously off the back of a boat. After some time, the particles were carried up in thermals into the condensing layer. This created a cloud exactly where they were hoping.

The cloud was about 100 feet wide by about four miles long. The cloud's volume was about six million square meters. They estimated that this cloud could potentially off set the carbon produced by about four or five power generating stations.

Project Earth - Raining Forests

In the Raining Forests episode, the project earth team focuses on replanting vast forests with saplings. Instead of the normal traditional means with hands and shovels, the team plans to plant entire forests high above the ground in a helicopter. Being high above has its advantages, it is easier to disperse the fauna over a larger area in less time.

As forests are replanted, they absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide as the newly planted trees grow.

The Raining Forests episode of Project Earth premieres on August 29th at 9:00 pm EST on the Discovery Channel.

Update from the show: The Project Earth team tackles deforestation in Raining Rainforests. Current estimates say a forest the size of West Virginia is lost every year. In order to keep up with this trend, a forest twice the size of Manhattan must be replanted every day to be effective.

The team plans to test their replanting theory in the Mississippi delta. Recent hurricanes, Katrina and Rita, destroyed over 320 million trees by blowing them down or poisoning them with salt water.

Since Mangrove trees are native to the Mississippi delta, the Project Earth team will attempt to repopulate an island with Mangrove propagules.

Mangrove forests have decresed by 20% all over the world since the eighties, faster than rain forests. Mangroves are the most cost effective since they absorb a very large amount of carbon dioxide. Although, this design can be changed to accomodate any tree for any ecosystem.

The Project Earth team plans to drop propagules out from a plane. They estimate that a 4 foot spread pattern is needed if the propagules are to have optimum forest growing conditions.

It turned out that an airplane was too dangerous since the spread pattern was not optimal since the plane had to travel very slowly. The risk of the airplane stalling was too great so the team had to settle on using helicopters.

After a few tests to see how they would drop the propagules from the helicopters, the team decided to use large nets hanging below the helicopters. After the propagules were dropped from the helicopters, the project earth team would reconvene a the site three months later to see if any of the trees were still alive.

Even with all the effort and planning, the propagules were unable to take root after three months. The project earth team decided that their current ideas on this project will need some fine tuning since nothing was able to take root.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Project Earth - Wrapping Greenland

Project Earth, episode two Wrapping Greenland, the premise of the second episode is to see if wrapping glaciers in geotextile blankets.

The project earth team tests their theory on a glacier located in Greenland. The team believes that if glaciers are wrapped in blankets, the blankets will insulate the ice from melting.

The blankets using special synthetic geotextile materials are expected to help reflect the sun's rays during the summer melting season.

Although the idea is pretty good, the costs sound unreasonable. The costs for these materials will average about 12 million dollars per square mile. How valuable is fresh water to you? How valuable will fresh water be in 50 years?

Wrapping Greenland will premiere on the Discovery Channel on August 22nd, at 10:00 pm EST, immediately following Engineering the Future.

Updates from the show Wrapping Greenland: The Project Earth team decided on instead of wrapping the entire island of Greenland, they focused on local melting points. The team compared the melt with a bowl of ice cream. The ice cream stays frozen in the center; however, the sides are the places where it melts. The team will focus on only covering two acres around a melt lake near the edge of Greenland's ice line.

Materials that were included are the same white tarps used in the alps on Austrian glaciers and bamboo. Metal was tested to hold the sheets down but the metal conducted heat. Plastic was also considered however it was proven to be too brittle. Bamboo is renewable resource and it is very environmentally friendly.

The results of the test actually proved to be much better than expected. The two acres of material saved and compressed ice by two feet. The material saved 5000 tons of ice from melting.

If this test was ramped up to full scale where it covered all of Greenland it would cost $400 billion for 771 million blankets. In order to move all of these tarps, the team would need 31 million helicopter transports costing $186 billion. On top of the $586 billion dollars on just materials and transportation, the wages of the people working on these tarps is not even factored in. Aside from costs, covering glaciers in a large scale will in fact out weigh its carbon footprint.

Even though it seems that it works; currently, it is only feasible for small scale deployments. Covering glaciers with blankets should only be considered for glaciers used for drinking water.

Covering glaciers with tarps seems only to tackle the effects of global warming, perhaps we should focus more on the cause.

Project Earth - Engineering the Future

The episode Engineering the Future debuts the mini-series on Friday, August 22nd at 9pm EST.

Engineering the Future, the first of the episodes, sounds to be the plot basis of the entire Project Earth mini-series. The team of scientists and engineers discuss their experiments to save the planet. This episode should lay the ground work for every other episode after this one.

Aside from the synopsis of the episode on the discovery website nothing else has been released regarding the first program.

Discovery Project Earth

The episode list for Discovery Channel's Project Earth is as follows. Each listing is for the episode's debut, each show will be replayed during the week of its airing.

Engineering the Future - Aug 22, 9:00 pm
Wrapping Greenland - Aug 22, 10:00 pm
Raining Forests - Aug 29, 9:00 pm
Brighter World - Aug 29, 10:00 pm
Infinite Winds - Sep 05, 9:00 pm
Hungry Ocean - Sep 05, 10:00 pm
Space Sunshield - Sep 12, 9:00 pm
Orbital Power Plant - Sep 12, 10:00 pm
Fixing Carbon - Sep 19, 9:00 pm

Some of these ideas sound a bit far fetched but lets see what Project Earth can do.