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Blue Nano-Planet

From the tiny to the big
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Nanotechnology is apparently yielding some very bizarre and interesting materials.

Some nanomaterials have been developed that act like mega-strong but giga-flexible sponges. They have tiny pores and can suck up huge amounts of stuff. They are being researched in the context of gas storage technologies. Another way to describe them would be by referring to lungs: as an object they have a very small volume, but their internal surface area is huge as they expand.

Some materials can store 2000 times their own volume and hold stuff a million times heavier than their own weight!!!

Now the idea is simple: build nano-sponges that can suck up large quantities of water and space dust.

1. Shoot these light-weight but ultra-strong sponges into a neatly calculated trajectory into space, so that they cross the tail of a comet or the asteroids at the outer limits of the solar system.

2. As they travel through the tail or the asteroid belt, they suck up water and dust and swell, building up gravity.

3. The trajectory then follows a path back to the Sun, where all our sponges converge into a nice elliptical orbit (we have calculated this with computers and with pencils).

4. After a while, when all sponges have catched up with each other, they will start sticking together, and form a nice ball

5. We now have a kind of a planet full of water and cosmic dust.

Our last step is to visit it and to plant a flag on it, which reads: we made it ourselves, just because we can.

Alternatively, our blue nano-planet could be positioned in such a way that we can manage our solar system a bit better (could act as a counter-weight for space elevators, or as a gravity object that would change our lives here on earth, for the better, e.g. by making bigger tides and waves from which we can tap energy, etc...).

django, Aug 01 2007

Huge swelling http://www.esrf.eu/...eleases/nanoporous/
Scientists track remarkable “breathing” in nanoporous materials [django, Aug 01 2007]


       I may have misunderstood this.   

       But, if a 1kg sponge crosses a comet's tail and soaks up 10kg of gunk, its final trajectory (and speed) will be close to that of the original gunk. In other words, momentum is momentum (and cheese, indeed, is cheese) - you can't just mop stuff up willy nilly without also mopping up its momentum.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 01 2007

       Mm, I'm not a physicist, but what would happen if we were to send a large amount of sponges in succession? Wouldn't they counteract the comet's gravity?   

       Or wouldn't they simply swallow the entire comet and continue on a trajectory we have calculated in that case?
django, Aug 01 2007

       It is impossible to send a large amount of sponges in successtion. The best you could do would be to send a large *number* of sponges or, possibly, a large amount of *sponge*.   

       However you slice your catfish, the final velocity of the whole schlemiel is going to be closest to whichever had the greatest mass (ie, the comet or the sponges) before they met. And the comet's gravity doesn't have much to do with it - only its momentum.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 01 2007

       A bun because it's beautiful. And for using pencils a bit.
awesomest, Aug 01 2007

       //I'm not a physicist// Everybody is a physicist. It's just that some people (not me) are good enough to do it for a living.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 01 2007

       Sponges, nano-materials, orbits, comets, planets... totally far fetched, daft and halfbaked. this will never work, BUT on the other hand, it might ! BIG, BIG planet sized croissant +
xenzag, Aug 01 2007

       Re link, I did a google for 'huge swelling". Interesting reading, but I'm not going to link.
normzone, Aug 01 2007

       [MaxwellBuchanan], sorry for my bad English skills. I am still working on it, but it is a very difficult language for me! :-)   

       For example, when do you use "which" and "that" or "who". E.g.: "much sponges that travelled through space" or is it "much sponges which travelled through space", maybe it is even "much sponges who travelled through the space"? Very few people know!
django, Aug 01 2007

       "I sponge, therefore I am a sponge." Repeat loudly until you start absorbing moisture from your immediate surroundings. Congratulations you are now qualified as a neophyte sponge.
xenzag, Aug 01 2007

       [Django] - my apologies, I was making fun at your expense. "Many" refers to discrete, countable items; "amount", "much" etc refer to continuous variables (many gazelles; much water). "That" and "which" - I never remember. I think the rule is that "which" is parenthetical, whereas "that" specifies.   

       For instance "The dog, which was barking, was brown." (There was only one dog and it was brown. It also happened to be barking.) Or "The dog that was barking was brown." (There were many dogs, but the brown one was barking.)
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 01 2007

       I know it's out there, but could this or something similar be done with Haley’s' comet?
We should know its precise trajectory, could we not use the fact that the comet will "drag' the sponges to predict and in fact control where they will eventually orbit the Sun?

       I can't decide whether to MFD this for bad science, WIBNI, or magic, so I won't.
ldischler, Aug 02 2007

       Whatever he's having---I'll have one too.
Ander, Aug 04 2007

       //In other words, momentum is momentum (and cheese, indeed, is cheese)//   

       I wonder how much it would spoil the idea if the sponges had course-correcting engines attached to them, so as to enable them to part company from the comet after soaking? The new blue planet would emerge pre-polluted with engine junk, but at least it would emerge.   

       So, [MaxwellBuchanan], if our revised missiles were a sort of cross between nano-sponge and Harrier jump-jet (yes, yes, I know; rockets, not jets), would it still be cheese, in your terms?
pertinax, Jan 15 2009

       I think I found some of the primordial sponge scaffolding of our own planet in the park the other day. I cannot think of what else it might be. Somehow it must have worked itself loose from the bowels of the planet.
bungston, Jan 16 2009

       // if our revised missiles were a sort of cross between nano- sponge and Harrier jump-jet (yes, yes, I know; rockets, not jets), would it still be cheese, in your terms?// This is probably the first time that sentence has been used, even allowing for multiverses.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 16 2009

       Very interesting link; thanks, [django]. The large surface area/volume of these metallo-organic crystals may give carbon nanotubes a run for their money as the preferred medium for future ultra-capacitors.   

       //Huge swelling// Well, the swelling isn't all that big according to the article: 230% by volume (that's only 132% by diameter). My point is it's not likely to get "blue planet" size without a lot of sponge...   

       I'm not so sure these crystalline sponges would effeciently absorb space gases like water, etc, when colliding with them at tens of kilometers/second - (at least not in the systematic way as in the link); especially, since they've only been observed absorbing liquid solvents, so far. [=]
Wily Peyote, Jan 18 2009

       // // if our revised missiles were a sort of cross between nano- sponge and Harrier jump-jet (yes, yes, I know; rockets, not jets), would it still be cheese, in your terms?// This is probably the first time that sentence has been used, even allowing for multiverses. //   

       I've had a few tonight, but that's still got to be the funniest thing i've read in quite a while. :-)
superjohn, Jan 18 2009

       I like the idea. Thinking very small to think very large!   

       I use a lot of activated carbon in my work and it is a natural version of this, albeit less efficient - only a few hundred square meters of adsorbtive area per gram. But it will absorb both gases and liquids.   

       It does require some contact time, so you probably don't want it shooting through a comet's tail at 10 km/second. So how about this variant:   

       Use your super sponge. But also have a parabolic mirror to boil some of the captured methane, ethane, ammonia, water, etc. Direct the hot gases to keep the sponge in the comet's tail and then to steer the sponge to the orbit you want.
DavidinKenai, Jan 18 2009


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