Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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If I could save space in a bottle

(With apologies to the late Jim Croce)
  [vote for,

A manufacturing module attached to the ISS. The module would contain borosilicate glass tubes. The tubes and the module would be exposed to open space. The open end of the tube would pass through an insulated ring. Within that ring would be heating elements to melt the end closed. After a short anneal, the tube would slide forward, and the melting process repeated. Eventually, a line of glass “sausages” would be created. Each “sausage“ would be filled with actual space.

Upon retrieval by astronauts and a refill of the glass tubes in the manufacturing unit, the individual “space sausages” would be broken apart, packaged and sent back to earth with other materials being sent back. SpaceX could sell them for $300 each to help fund their next flight.

Balls of "nothing" have been proposed before, but we are the first company to have mastered the manufacturing to make it viable. With a compressive strength of 20 x 106KN/m2, the crushing problems associated with previous schemes is eliminated. With automated throughput, large quantities of product may be produced with little human intervention. Also, the benefit of being able to *see* your space and "show" it to friends makes this a more viable business model than previous attempts.

Bonus: Act now and for only $100 additional, we can insert a piece of parchment with the Shema Yisrael. Be the first in your kibbutz to have a Space Mezuzah.

Klaatu, Mar 01 2013

Inspiration Balls_20Of_20Nothing
[Klaatu, Mar 01 2013]

Inspiration II Space_20for_20sale
[Klaatu, Mar 01 2013]

Real_20Outer_20Space_20Vacuum [FlyingToaster, Mar 01 2013]

Egg timer in plastic http://baohonglass....rglass_BH_7021.html
[Klaatu, Mar 01 2013]

Sealing glass ampules http://youtu.be/GzhxUQ5vJBk
[Klaatu, Mar 01 2013]

Crushing ping pong balls http://physics.stac...pses-due-to-pressur
"The real crush depth will be between a half and a quarter of this value, matching the experimental value of approximately 30 meters." [Klaatu, Mar 01 2013]

Glassblowing http://youtu.be/WfZ3yXQkDcE
[Klaatu, Mar 01 2013]


       [FlyingToaster] apologies for not including yours, also as inspiration. <link> I did see it and the issue seemed to be a problem getting the ping pong balls halves into, and out of, the machine without losing vacuum. In addition, ping pong balls have very little compressive strength. (Try scuba diving with them. They "squish" at a fairly shallow depth)   

       My idea differs in that 1) the ampules of "space" are created in space. 2) compressive issues have been dealt with by glass. 3) they are clear and you can observe the treasure inside. 4) sealed glass should maintain the vacuum forever. (unknown permeability of ping pong balls over time)   

       I feel that mine is a superior product and different enough to stand on its own merits.
Klaatu, Mar 01 2013

       I believe [spidermother], channeling Mythbusters, disproved the crushed-pingpong-balls theory. And my product is real organic outer-space vacuum, albeit from concentrated vacuum which is much cheaper to transport.   

       I will certainly grant that the ability to gaze upon the wondrous substance at any time is a plus (perhaps celluloid could also be made more transparent).   

       I'll be selling much cheaper, but sticking to a generic "from outer space" tag, harvesting from whatever is the most cost-effective collection locale.
FlyingToaster, Mar 01 2013

       Glass is still gas permeable. This would have a long but not infinite life.   

       Second, glass is heavy. Getting it up there and back is going to eat up a portion of your profits. At the best possible estimate for launch cost (Falcon Heavy) it's maybe $20, but at current prices it's more likely to run up towards $100. And that's just for the poor quality LEO vacuum. If you want the good geosynchronous stuff, you'd better set the price much higher. This ignores the handling equipment, so you better sell lots to amortize that. It also ignores the fact that I'm not sure anyone has done work on how molten glass behaves in vacuum.
MechE, Mar 01 2013

       [MechE] Thinner borosilicate glass tubes would not have a lot of weight, and if you are making ampules, each tube should be able to make at least 40 small ampules or more. At $300 per ampule, that equates to $12,000 per tube. Say...30 tubes at $12,000 each comes to around $360,000 before you need to reload.   

       As far as gas permeability, I have worked with glass as a glassblower and with glass ampules in the Emergency Room. They are extremely non-permeable when fire sealed.   

       Working glass in a vacuum is not an issue. Unless you are blowing glass, the glass behaves normally. The real question would be micro-gravity. I can tell you that molten glass will tend to pull itself together when molten. As long as the heating is circumferential, the open glass end will fuse closed.
Klaatu, Mar 01 2013

       I'm talking in terms of decades for in-gassing to be a problem, but it does occur.   

       Are you sure about molten glass in vacuum? Glass is mixture, and if some of the components boil off at a different rates (which I believe they would), the mechanical properties could be compromised.   

       As far as the weight, I was figuring on each ampule equal to .25 in^3 size for my costs. If you make them to small/thin walled they will break during handling even if they can hold the vacuum.   

       Of course both the handling and ingassing issues could be improved by adding additional glass (or even a plastic like lucite) once it was back on earth.
MechE, Mar 01 2013

       //Are you sure about molten glass in vacuum?//   

       Yes. There is nothing to "mix". In some ways, it would be easier. When glassblowing, you are in a constant fight against gravity and must keep the piece rotating to preclude a molten puddle on the floor.   

       I like your idea about encasing in Lucite®. I've seen hourglasses encased in Lucite® <link> and it would give added strength and a place to engrave (for only $25 additional).
Klaatu, Mar 01 2013

       hmm... without a gas in the center, any glassblowing attempts will end up as variations on a donut.
FlyingToaster, Mar 01 2013

       [FlyingToaster] The point is that you are *not* blowing the glass, just sealing it.   

       As a glassblower, I have sealed pieces just by heating in a flame without collapse, on a pontil - not a blowpipe. Because glass has such poor heat conductivity, it is possible to heat just a small section and to have it seal itself.
Klaatu, Mar 01 2013

       yes but it won't vary from a solid mass unless it has a reason to, ie: how are you going to get the hole into it ?
FlyingToaster, Mar 01 2013

       [FlyingToaster] If you read the idea, it is about using borosilicate glass ->->->tubes<-<-<-. Suggestion, take some glass tubing and heat one end in a propane torch. It will answer your all of your questions. Or, you might want to watch the video <link> to see how it is done.   

       We are not trying to do freeblown glass in space. We are doing lampworking. Major difference.
Klaatu, Mar 01 2013

       //After a short anneal,// you said in the idea. But you could do a bit longer anneal of the open tube prior to sealing, and remove the gasses from the glass itself. A lot more effective than any "getter" would be in an artificial-vacuum glass piece.   

       There are a lot of vacuum tube devices made in the 1920's that still work fine. That's getting close to a century, so the lower bound on lifetime is going to be, at a minimum, longer than the lifetime of the purchaser.
lurch, Mar 01 2013

       There's a lot of vacuum tube equipment, but I defy you to find a tube that old. Unlike modern ICs or even board level transistors, vacuum tubes were replaceable.   

       And [Klatuu] I've done glass blowing as well. There's nothing to mix at the macro level, but glass is a mixture of materials, primarily silicates but with additives (sodium carbonate and various calcium compounds for soda lime, boric, sodium and aluminum oxides for borosilicate). Under pressure, none of those components evaporate enough to matter, I won't swear the same is true in vacuum. I won't swear it isn't either, but unless you can point me to some research, I'd be concerned about it.
MechE, Mar 01 2013

       [K] okay, I did actually read the idea :) but I noticed everybody chatting about glass-blowing so I thought you changed it.
FlyingToaster, Mar 01 2013

       //I've done glass blowing as well.//   

       Awesome [MechE]. Who did you study with? I had the privilege of being in Madison in '64 and got to watch Harvey Littleton teaching. I was there with Dr. Robert C Fritz (Uncle Bob). When we returned to San Jose State, I got to help build the furnaces, lear and all of the blocks and paddles in preparation for the first class in glassblowing on the west coast. Heady days. I had my first one-man show when I was 16 and Erwin Eisch requested, and took, a piece of my glass for his personal collection.
Klaatu, Mar 02 2013

       I wasn't claiming any particular skill, just that I've done it and understand the basics.   

       The latter was coming more from my knowledge of materials and chemistry, and the difficulty of working with volatile materials in a non-standard atmosphere.
MechE, Mar 02 2013


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