It’s on a very pretty Web page – like a new Apple product – that MIT unveiled its “Space Bubbles” project to the general public. Within the Senseable City Laboratory, a team of engineers focused on solving the problem of climate change “in an emergency situation”. Their mission: to act in the event that “Climate change would have already gone too far”.
How can we slow down global warming, or even stop it and reverse it? For them, the only solution would lie in solar geoengineering. In essence, manipulating the weather would have to go through manipulating the sun’s rays. And to this, MIT offers a kind of barrier of bubbles, made of molten silicon, graphene-enhanced ionic liquids.
These bubbles, deployed in the form of a gigantic disc, would deflect the sun’s rays. To be able to perpetually be oriented between the Earth and the Sun, the bubble barrier would be deployed by a spacecraft at the Lagrange point.
On its site, the engineers presented their bubbles as if “innovative solution that is easily deployed and fully reversible”. Being able to burst like classic bubbles, this barrier could therefore leave no debris if it had to be remodeled or removed.
A story of 2%
How could bubbles turn things around on our planet? According to the calculations of MIT engineers, it would be enough to deflect 1.8% of the sun’s rays to “reverse current global warming”. That said, in a statement, the team clarified that this should not be taken as a solution to resume activities with greenhouse gas emissions – efforts will also have to continue on Earth.
Nothing is at an advanced stage yet. But to be able to judge its reliability, “Space Bubbles” followed initial laboratory tests to simulate outer space conditions. The difficulty would be to find a mixture with a texture solid enough not to burst and fine enough not to deflect the rays too much.
“Global cooperation and significant political collaboration is needed to sponsor and move the project forward”the team wrote, adding that “in situ inflation of bubbles involves complex tasks in robotics and navigation”. The mass will have to be very low in order not to be too influenced by terrestrial and solar gravity.