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#1 2018-08-01 10:07:45

Terraformer
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From: Lancashire
Registered: 2007-08-27
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Technology trees and toolchains

Branching off from the self-replication colony thread, I'd like to talk about what technological prerequisites are required to do and build certain things. What out technology tree looks like, if you will, or what toolchains are required to go from raw materials to a finished product.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology_tree
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toolchain

As an example, most (almost all?) things we use today either include steel, or involve steel tools at some point in their manufacture. So steel production is an essential prerequisite for the modern world. To produce steel, you need the raw materials of iron oxide and carbon (either coke or charcoal), plus a flux, typically limestone. These are then combined in a furnace to produce pig iron, which is later processed further to acquire pure iron for alloying. The iron oxide and limestone has to be mined, whilst the carbon can be acquired by heating wood (which of course has to be logged). The furnace is itself made from iron and lined with clay, plus a bellows system to drive air through it. The pig iron produced by this process can then be de-carbonised by blowing air through the molten iron, which can then be alloyed with other elements to produce steel. The tools used in this process will typically be made out of steel themselves.

So to produce carbon steel you need:

  • Iron Oxide (mined)

  • Limestone (quarried)

  • Charcoal (produced from wood that is grown)

  • A furnace (built from iron and clay)

  • A converter to produce pure iron (same requirements as the furnace?)

That gets you steel. You then need tools to turn that steel into more tools.


"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney

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#2 2018-08-01 10:24:57

Terraformer
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Re: Technology trees and toolchains

I posted that I think the ability to manufacture a motorbike requires a large number of technological abilities that can be used to manufacture a great many other things. Reposting Josh's response (geared towards Mars, but I'd like to focus on this thread on Terra, since it's the only one we have experience with - and other environments won't be much different).

JoshNH4H wrote:
Terraformer wrote:

What key technologies are needed to build a motorbike? What elements and compounds? How many people are needed to build one from the raw materials - and by raw, I'm talking about ores here, not the refined materials.

I like this one, let's look at it.

A motorbike is basically two things: An internal combustion engine hooked up to a frame that can be comfortably ridden by a passenger.

Let's look at the internal combustion engine first.  The engine exists inside an engine block, which so far as I know is generally cast from a single piece of steel.  Within the engine block you have the cylinders, plus various bearings and shafts and such, plus also O-rings to hold in the pressure.

Most of these are made from various kinds of steel.  I don't know what the particular alloy choices are, and there's definitely going to be a few different ones based on the particular needs for each particular choice.  At a guess there'll also be a bit of Aluminium as a heat transfer element.

I don't claim to know what the "correct" way to do this is, but every motorcycle I can think of runs on a hydrocarbon combined with air.  On Mars, this probably means some kind of synthetic hydrocarbon (perhaps methane) combined with compressed air. 

It's important that it not be just compressed oxygen: The Nitrogen in Earth's atmosphere serves to lower the maximum temperature, which reduces the thermal stress and wear on the combustion cylinders, which otherwise might reach temperatures around (or above) 3000 K.  For reference the maximum service temperature of most steels is below 600 C (the steel can be cooler than the combustion gases but a 2400 K temperature differential is probably impossible).  You might replace compressed air with compressed or liquid oxygen and liquid CO2 as a dilutant.

On this note, it's important to note that there are actually two thermodynamic cycles used in internal combustion engines, the Diesel cycle and the Otto cycle.  The two cycles use somewhat different fuels but the biggest difference is that in the Diesel cycle the heat from compressing the gas causes the fuel to ignite while in the Otto Cycle the ignition source is external, usually spark plugs.  Because the gas is compressed and cold to begin with, this ICE will use the Otto Cycle.  To the best of my knowledge most motorcycles use that anyway.

So you also need spark plugs.  Spark plugs are mostly made from steel and ceramic (usually aluminium oxide), but the sparking elements are usually made from a special alloy designed to withstand particularly high temperatures and the presence of hot oxygen while also being conductive.  For a cheap plug with poor performance and a short lifetime you can use copper, but these days expensive noble metals are used more often.  The actual amount of metal involved is quite small though, in general you can import from Earth (or stockpile in the event of an emergency) or use copper for poor lifetime and performance.

You also need a rubber material (for pressure seals and O-rings) and lubricant.  There's a lot of options.  I talked about it a bit in this thread where I think I settled on silicones for both.  I don't necessarily stand by that but it's certainly an option, along with more traditional polymers and oils like we use on Earth.  It's worth pointing out that polybutadiene (the most common kind of synthetic rubber) can be produced indirectly from ethanol.  It's a little hard to synthesize the long-change hydrocarbons in oils from scratch but it can be done.  You can also get oils from plants (I have a mechanical set of clippers that I lubricate with olive oil--this may not be advisable) but that seems expensive.

The spark plugs are powered by electromagnetic transformers that increase the voltage to enable electric arcing, which presumably are made mostly from copper, iron, and ribber insulation.  In general electrical applications you can replace copper with aluminium for a loss in conductance.

The frame is a bit more amorphous and flexible.  It can be made from any number of materials, generally has rubber tires (but metal frame would work too), usually has some sort of shocks (often containing pneumatics or hydraulics as shocks, but springs would work too).  The engine controls can be purely mechanical if you want them to.

So, as far as base materials go, you need Steel (various alloys, with alloying elements certainly including carbon and perhaps including nickel, manganese, and chromium), perhaps copper, nickel, platinum, or iridium, Alumina, Aluminium, rubber, lubricant, some sort of fuel and oxidizer.

Aluminium comes from Bauxite on Earth, which you get from bodies of water leeching aluminium oxide from the rock and precipitating it elsewhere.  I don't know if there's bauxite on Mars.  It's a good bet that there's probably a passable Aluminium ore--somewhere--but I'm not sure where.

Iron comes from various iron oxide ores.  Average Martian regolith would be considered a low-grade Iron ore on Earth, so it's a good bet that you can find regions with higher, ore-grade purity.  We don't know where though.

Carbon and many rubbers (including polybutadiene) can be produced from derivatives of CO2 and water.

If you can avoid using any special steels (probably at the cost of a shorter component lifetime and worse performance) all you need that's hard to get is a few fractions of a gram of noble metal, plus the (heavy, expensive) equipment to process it down to materials, components, assemblies, and products, and I think you've got yourself a motorcycle.


"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney

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#3 2018-08-01 10:30:19

Terraformer
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From: Lancashire
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Re: Technology trees and toolchains

A useful link if you want to know what one person can do with the resources they can find around them in nature - https://primitivetechnology.wordpress.com/


"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney

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#4 2018-08-01 16:50:55

louis
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Re: Technology trees and toolchains

Some great links there - thanks.

My comments would be (as I am sure you realise) you can't easily read across from Earth to Mars on materials requirements.  Calicium (what's required in steel production) is rare on Mars. I don't think any of the rovers have come across it yet.  You might be reliant on meteorite deposits.  But then you need to ask - what part is calcium playing in steel production? Could anything else stand in?  Likewise with copper, also rare on Mars - there are alternatives to copper for conductive wiring.

One thing I would add: whilst manufacturing advanced products is mind-blowingly complex, it is something that computers can easily cope with. Not just that but at each "node" in the process computers can store all the relevant plans and guidance videos to show Mars colonists how to produce the desired results.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#5 2018-08-02 13:35:17

JoshNH4H
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Re: Technology trees and toolchains

One thing about the internal combustion engine that I really like is that the setup of the ICE is fairly similar to that of a vacuum pump or gas compressor.  I don't think you could design any machine that was effective in all three functions but if you have the technology to make an ICE you pretty much get the other two as a bonus


-Josh

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#6 2018-08-02 14:51:09

Terraformer
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Re: Technology trees and toolchains

...and with a gas compressor, you can build a refrigerator. One of the most important inventions of the last 200 years.

Has anyone tried making an entire new machine shop using an existing one? Obviously it wouldn't be able to use anything electronic - not until we have desktop chip fabs that take in silicon and turn it into microchips - but it should be able to use electric motors, if it can produce the wire needed.

What are the basic metalworking processes we need? Extrusion, wire drawing, casting etc.

What are some basic chemical processes and chemicals we need for a chemical industry? We're already talking about Sulfuric Acid. What about plastic synthesis? Ethene can be produced from ethanol, which we've been producing for... a very long time. It's fairly easy to distil.


"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney

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#7 2018-08-02 17:04:25

louis
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Re: Technology trees and toolchains

I recall previous discussions where some have claimed that extrusion makes plastics production especially difficult.  But such claims normally prove erroneous - there are often other ways of producing the same product and it isn't very often that you can't scale down.

Here's a helpful list of the top ten industrial chemicals on Earth...

https://www.dummies.com/education/scien … chemicals/

If you were formulating an industrial development plan for a Mars community (as part of a wider colony development plan) you'd need to draw up a list of target outcomes and then go through all the industrial processes and industrial chemicals and see what was required to meet those essential targets. The targets would cover stuff like hab construction, agricultural development, transport and industrial machine production. Obviously you would make use of expert panels to guide your choices.

I think the profile of industrial chemical usage on Mars would be quite different from that on Earth.  Clearly on Mars, industrial chemicals won't be servicing a huge hydrocarbon sector. The chemicals used in paper production and recycling will not be required for those processes.  Also, Mars is not going to be pandering to human vanity whether it's a chrome finish, internal or external decor of homes, plastic nails, or whatever. Things will be much more utilitarian.  We may also find it's easier to grow some crops e.g. bamboo that can be used in a lot of functions currently taken by plastics or metal in Europe and N America. Likewise it might be easier to grow oil-producing crops of various kinds rather than produce synthetic oil. The advantage in agriculture is that you have ready-made "mini factories" that do it all for you without requiring direct labour input. That's important in an environment where there will be a chronic labour shortage.


Terraformer wrote:

...and with a gas compressor, you can build a refrigerator. One of the most important inventions of the last 200 years.

Has anyone tried making an entire new machine shop using an existing one? Obviously it wouldn't be able to use anything electronic - not until we have desktop chip fabs that take in silicon and turn it into microchips - but it should be able to use electric motors, if it can produce the wire needed.

What are the basic metalworking processes we need? Extrusion, wire drawing, casting etc.

What are some basic chemical processes and chemicals we need for a chemical industry? We're already talking about Sulfuric Acid. What about plastic synthesis? Ethene can be produced from ethanol, which we've been producing for... a very long time. It's fairly easy to distil.

Last edited by louis (2018-08-02 17:05:53)


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#8 2018-08-02 17:42:56

SpaceNut
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Re: Technology trees and toolchains

Refrigerators on mars will not use a compressor it will be a loop of tubing to the outside and one internal to the to the unit with a pump to move a working fluid that does not freeze to form a heat exchanger. Cycle the pump to move the cold fluid into the refridge and blow the air through it to cool the inside.

Use common processes to simplify one product to the next.

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#9 2018-08-02 18:11:59

louis
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Re: Technology trees and toolchains

I use the example of glass receptacles. On Earth there must be literally millions of different shaped receptacles used in thousands of different contexts e.g. perfume, drinking liquid holders, food storage containers, vases, chemical dispensers etc. That vast number could certainly be reduced down to a few hundred standardised receptacles in terms of utility, which could be produced with nearly 100% automation and which would save the Mars community hundreds of thousands of hours of labour.

SpaceNut wrote:

Refrigerators on mars will not use a compressor it will be a loop of tubing to the outside and one internal to the to the unit with a pump to move a working fluid that does not freeze to form a heat exchanger. Cycle the pump to move the cold fluid into the refridge and blow the air through it to cool the inside.

Use common processes to simplify one product to the next.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#10 2018-08-03 10:28:01

Terraformer
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From: Lancashire
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Re: Technology trees and toolchains

louis,

What are you talking about Mars for? Please don't drag this thread off topic. If I wanted to focus specifically on Mars, I would have put it in the LIfe Support forum, or Economy.

As far as automation goes, forget it. As I said, until we have desktop chip fabs, a machine shop using automation can't be self replicating.


"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney

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#11 2018-08-03 16:46:18

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
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Re: Technology trees and toolchains

Louis wrote:

I use the example of glass receptacles. On Earth there must be literally millions of different shaped receptacles used in thousands of different contexts e.g. perfume, drinking liquid holders, food storage containers, vases, chemical dispensers etc. That vast number could certainly be reduced down to a few hundred standardised receptacles in terms of utility, which could be produced with nearly 100% automation and which would save the Mars community hundreds of thousands of hours of labour.

Not really what I was looking to do in reducing diversity of product. Think back to the initial category and I will remove the product that we are trying to make.

Simplified mined, quarried, something needed from a processed growth, heat source light to high, method needed to create finished product

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#12 2019-08-19 03:40:56

Terraformer
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From: Lancashire
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Re: Technology trees and toolchains

Reposting from my answer to a question on Reddit, regarding what a self sufficient community would need.

Depends on what tech level you want to maintain.


First up, natural resources.

Trees. Lots and lots of trees. You need paper, fuel, charcoal, wood for construction... wood is *the* most precious resource humans have.

Water. Goes without saying, but ideally in the form of a river that can be tapped for hydropower.

Productive gardens. Which doesn't have to mean good farmland, if you can build the soil yourself. But you do need to feed yourself, as well as produce fibre (animal or plant based) for clothing, linen, rope etc.

Clay. You can use it for making waterproof tiles, for roofs, aqueducts, bathtubs etc. It is necessary for lining furnaces. Humanities second oldest material, behind wood.

Limestone, for cement, mortar, and a flux in your iron furnaces.

Sand. It's coarse, it's rough, it's irritating... but it's used everywhere. If you want glass, you need sand. If you want to do sandcasting, you need sand. If you want to make concrete... but I repeat myself.

Iron ore. You can recycle iron a lot, but if you want to be sustainable or to expand, you need your own source of iron. Or you can go back to the stone age, taking you back five millennia rather than two centuries. Life is a lot easier with steel shovels, knives, axes, saws (and screws!); and the big advantage that engines have over horses is that they don't need feeding when not in use.

That's resources. I've probably left some off (copper ore, for example), but that's harder to find that bog iron. No electricity, sorry.


Next up, tools, and the skills to use them.

The first thing you're going to need is a machine shop. You can build one from scrap metal, so you should be able to replicate the machine shop from new steel. You're going to have to include a furnace too, which fortunately you can build using stuff you find in the wild. These will let you build all the other tools that are going to be required.

Other basic tools, I've already mentioned. Stuff like knives and shovels, which also include wood to a large degree in their manufacture. Lanterns, since I'm discounting electricity here, but even if I wasn't lightbulbs are probably too difficult for a small community to manufacture. Bicycles, and pedal systems for powering machinery.

Glass production. I'm not as familiar with this, so I don't know what tools you're going to need for it. Glass gives you jars, a reusable and sustainable canning method. Better lanterns. Windows and greenhouses. Perhaps most importantly, reaction vessels for your chemical industry. If you can't do chemical processing, you're going to struggle to manufacture essential medicines. You're going to need other chemicals too, like sulphuric acid. Another book on the list I need to buy.

A brick press. One of the successes from the folks at Open Surce Ecology. Other designs are of course available, at the expense of requiring more work.

Stuff to manufacture paper and paper products. Used for wiping up and wiping off. Used for writing. Makes good storage boxes that can be composted when you're finished with them. Speaking of sanitation products, there's an Indian invention for making sanitary pads that would be of use. It's been extended to produce incontinence pads too.

The list goes on and on, and needs to be properly fleshed out. I haven't mentioned sewing machines, looms, water turbines, mills for grinding corn, spectacles, buttons, threshers, scythes, bread ovens, and all the other machines you could build with your shop. SCISSORS.


Finally, skills.

You need farmers/gardeners, first and foremost. No food, everyone gets hungry, they can't concentrate on their work. But you shouldn't need more than 10-20% of your population engaged in agriculture. Lumberjacks too, and shepherds.

Skilled artisans. Carpenters, masons... and machinists. Seamstresses and tailors. Everything, really, you would expect to find in a medieval market town. Fortunately, you'll be able to free up a lot more labour than they had back then, thanks to more efficient food production.

Professionals. A doctor-surgeon, who can treat animals too. You probably can't sustain a med school (just how big is this community?), so you're going to have to train you new professionals with apprenticeships, like every other job. Chemists. A librarian - you want to keep a big library, including lots of information that won't see day to day use. Teachers. Judges... definitely judges, if everything has collapsed and you have to provide dispute resolution within the community.

Like the tools list, this is only a small number of the skills you'll need. Hopefully your population will be good at learning from books, since you won't be able to support lots of specialisation.

Well, that was a longer post than I intended. Possibly more detailed than was asked for...


"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney

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#13 2019-08-19 07:12:14

tahanson43206
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Re: Technology trees and toolchains

For Terraformer re #12 ...

Thanks! Nice!  A capsule summary of Dr. Dartnell's book.

The idea of apprenticeships for advanced education seems appropriate for the Mars case as well, due to small population size.

However, computer based learning may allow for enhanced learning for more members of the population, since a Mars colony will be (hopefully) working from a first world base, and the demands of the environment will drive rapid learning-by-doing.

(th)

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#14 2019-08-19 18:14:36

SpaceNut
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Re: Technology trees and toolchains

https://www.brighthubengineering.com/ma … -smelting/

https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blast_furnace

Iron Ore Processing for the Blast Furnace

https://www.911metallurgist.com/smeltin … c-furnace/

Thinking about mars or asteriods or other large rocks to mining these are going to b heated in a chamber that is earth pressure and not open air low pressure as what could be mars. So rather than heating with fuels it might make more sense to do this electrically.
As the pdf shows there are many steps to starting with finding ore to what we will refine as steel...

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#15 2019-08-19 20:07:44

kbd512
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Re: Technology trees and toolchains

The amount of knowledge, skill, and technology required to make something as deceptively simple as a small internal combustion engine for a motor vehicle is mind boggling.  Every part of a modern engine is heavily engineered to perform optimally within a defined set of operating conditions.  For a place as inhospitable as Mars, the reliability and durability of the manufactured machine is a matter of life and death.

A motor cycle may be a fun toy for weekend joy rides here on Earth.  If it fails, the worst that typically happens is a quick phone call to someone to come pick you up, assuming another motorist doesn't find you first.  If that same motorcycle fails on Mars, the base might be calling someone to come bury you.  As such, even a simple motor cycle becomes an aerospace application.  Major failures are intolerable.

The act of mining and refining metal ores, making glass, and concrete will be a giant technological leap forward.  No diffusion of applications can follow until the processes for obtaining and refining the raw materials have been perfected.  Mars may not be rich in Copper, but that's mostly irrelevant.  If weight is an issue, and I contend that weight is a major design issue in aerospace applications, then Aluminum alloy wiring is a superior choice.  Roughly speaking, by weight, twice as much Copper is required to carry the same current as Alumnum wiring.  Aluminum wiring is also stronger than Copper wiring carrying equivalent current.  However, the Aluminum wiring must not be subjected to significant strain or vibration cycling, else fatigue failure will quickly follow.  Each bending cycle of the wiring work hardens the material, so bend it once to the desired shape and leave it alone.  Quality workmanship in electrical connections is also far more critical with Aluminum wiring.  Aluminum melts at a lower temperature than Copper, so it's easier to reshape and recycle using less input power.  All things considered, it's a much better choice.

Aluminum smelting carries an energy cost of about 12 to 15 MWh/t, so massive amounts of power are required for refining significant quantities of material.  Mining is also a very energy intensive application.  Apart from fission reactors or orbital power satellites, I'm not sure we could readily supply the power required.

Metal prices as a function of ore grade

Even with the energy cost of Aluminum accounting for 1/3 of the price, look at the prices of the various metals:

Copper Prices and Copper Price Charts

Only steel is cheaper than Aluminum, at roughly half the price.  Certain types of metals will undoubtedly be more expensive to obtain than others on Mars, but price is a function of the combination of labor, machinery, and energy required to obtain and transform the raw ore into a useful object or material.  The basic laws of labor and energy economics will apply on Mars like nowhere else on Earth.  Here on Earth, metals also benefit from widespread recycling.  No such system exists on Mars because the refined metals don't exist.

I tend to agree with SpaceNut in that most transportation and life support functions, such as heating, will be handled electrically.  There's not enough power nor readily available resources to blow 2/3rds of the original energy content of a hydrocarbon fuel out the tailpipe.  The less you have to use, the less you have to make, the less weight you have to bring with you, the more economical the entire operation becomes.  An electrical motor is one of the simplest to make and maintain of all modern machines, not to mention the most efficient way to convert energy into mechanical work, bar none, so the primacy of electrical applications is assured.  Heating is a different story, but stored solar thermal energy reservoirs will dominate there.

For metals, Aluminum alloys, pure Aluminum wiring, amorphous iron (Metglas) for motors / generators / transformer cores, and Nickel for various high temperature oxidation resistant steel alloys is required.  CNT wiring could obviously replace Aluminum and Copper entirely for even better power-to-weight performance, but Aluminum will remain a vital structural material for pipes / fittings / structures / etc.  Most tooling is made from various ceramic coated steel alloys.

Anyway, that was a lot of rambling to make the point that this won't be nearly as simple as we're making it out to be.

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#16 2019-08-19 22:12:45

tahanson43206
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Re: Technology trees and toolchains

For SpaceNut re #14 ...

SpaceNut wrote:

Thinking about mars or asteriods or other large rocks to mining these are going to b heated in a chamber that is earth pressure and not open air low pressure as what could be mars. So rather than heating with fuels it might make more sense to do this electrically.
As the pdf shows there are many steps to starting with finding ore to what we will refine as steel...

Your suggestion above, about heating ore in a chamber that is held at earth pressure, caught my eye, because it surprised me a bit.

It would seem more "natural" in the asteroid case, to heat ore in a vacuum, and to avoid the presence of stray gases altogether.

Would you be willing to expand a bit on your concept for enclosing the melt in an atmosphere? I'm probably just missing something.

The smelting concept I recall reading about before this was focus of solar energy with mirrors positioned around the ore so that heating occurs from multiple angles.  Since gravitational force in that situation will be very small, I am guessing that photon pressure (and outgassing from the melt) will be much more significant factors for management of the process than gravity would be.  My impression is that automation would keep the melt in the desired location with respect to the heating mirrors, by varying the power of the individual mirrors as needed to maintain the desired position.

From this resource: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_manufacturing

I found:

One proposed method of purifying asteroid materials is through the use of carbon monoxide (CO). Heating the material to 500 °F (260 °C) and exposing it to CO causes the metals to form gaseous carbonyls. This vapor can then be distilled to separate out the metal components, and the CO can then be recovered by another heating cycle. Thus an automated ship can scrape up loose surface materials from, say, the relatively nearby 4660 Nereus (in delta-v terms), process the ore using solar heating and CO, and eventually return with a load of almost pure metal. The economics of this process can potentially allow the material to be extracted at one-twentieth the cost of launching from Earth, but it would require a two-year round trip to return any mined ore.[citation needed]

(th)

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#17 2019-08-20 18:13:02

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 16,181

Re: Technology trees and toolchains

Also look to lunar solar concentrator using fiber optic to transmit the energy into the chamber to heat ore.
Solar furnace images

http://www.piercegordon1.com/wp-content … -glenn.pdf

https://www.lpi.usra.edu/publications/b … pter07.pdf

The size of the reflecting surface for mars will be larger to get the same level of energy but its possible.

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