new materials that exist plentifully, the traditional limits to development fall
The key for
the new basalt technology lies here, in the Great
Sandy Desert of the Harney Basin of Oregon. The entire area seen above is
but a small part of the Columbia
River Flood Basalt Province.
I see in
this scene above the potential heart of the greatest industrial and
technological revolution in American history. Beneath the sand and in the
mountains in the distance, and in those behind them, unseen by the eye, lies a
vast store of basalt that is one of the largest flood basalt deposits ever
created on the Earth's surface, though it is small in global terms. It extends
across the states of Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and trailing south into
and Snake River Flood Basalt Province
and Snake River Flood Basalt Province extends across 163,700 km² (63,000
mile²) of the Pacific Northwest with stores of basalt that are up to 6000 feet
deep and contain an estimated volume of 174,300 cubic kilometers. The
basalt was laid down 17–14 million years ago in a volcanic flooding event.
Basalt exists in large
quantities in the mantle of the earth, but only in a few places do they appear
on the surface, as in the flood basalt province above.
Basalt is a
stone, basically. But what a stone it is! It has amazing properties. It is
nearly as hard as diamonds, melts at 'low' temperatures (slightly lower than
molten glass), and when extruded into the fibers it is one of the strongest
materials known, second only to carbon fibers. Just compare the tenacity
(strength) numbers (given in MPa - mega Pascal; 1 Pa=1kg/square meter). The
numbers are, for structural steel=400, titanium=830, the best glass fiber=4,710,
basalt fiber=4,870, carbon fiber=5,650. While being 12 times stronger than steel
in this comparison, basalt is nearly three times lighter. These amazing
qualities of basalt, altogether, enable equally amazing technological
capabilities for industrial processes.
why basalt is not yet widely used, is society's reluctance to use its vast
nuclear power resources, and also provide itself the needed space to set up the
corresponding industrial capability that utilizes the new material. In
comparison, it takes twice as much energy to melt basalt than it takes to melt
steel. However, in the nuclear age, energy is no longer a big factor, especially
in heat-based processing where the theoretical energy factor is near zero, as
the heat invested can be largely recovered in the cooling process.
It takes 200 kilo-calories to raise the temperature of a ton of basalt one
degree Centigrade, termed
specific heat. This adds up to 280,000 kilo-calories of heat needed to raise
a ton of basalt to the process temperature of 1,400 degrees. This heat volume, by
conversion, equates to 325 Kw/hrs. This is the thermal energy needed
to process one ton of basalt. On the basis of this facts, a 1 gigawatt nuclear
reactor would be able to process 3,000 tons of basalt per hour. However, the
heat that gets put into the process of melting the basalt, can be recovered
after forming the product, being reclaimed during the cooling of the product.
Typically the recovered heat would be applied to preheating the feed stock. If
only half of the process heat would be recovered that way, a single one gigawatt
plant would be able to process twice as much material, or 6,000 tons per hour.
In practice far greater efficiencies are achievable. If the process was designed
so that 90% of the input heat can be recovered from the cooling process, a
single 1 GW plant would be able to process 27,000 tons of basalt per hour, which
adds up to 23 million tons per year. This is more than double the output in
tonnage of a large-scale steel mill, and is four times greater in volume.
current world-capacity in steel production standing at roughly 1.5 billion tons,
it would take a mere 55 production units to match the current world-capacity.
However, with the structural strength of basalt being ten times greater, a mere
6 production units would be able to produce the equivalent of the entire
world-supply of structural steel products.
analysis isn't intended to suggest that steel production would be displaced, but
it illustrates the enormous potential of the basalt process for revolutionizing
the economic platform of the world. In real terms, basalt would be used for
products where steel is not even considered due to its presently high production
cost (in the absence of high-temperature nuclear power).
production is not cheap. Steel production is a complex, multi-stage process from
mining both the ore and the coal for melting it, involving secondary industries
for ore processing, coke making, steel smelting, and so on, till the end-stage
of the milled product is reached.
Let me give
you a comparison between steel making, and basalt making.
making process typically begins with the mining of hematite or magnetite
containing rock formations. The mined product is then crushed and ground into a
powder that enables magnetic separation. The result, after the tailings
(60%-75%) are removed, is a concentrate that contains 60% of iron, the typical
feed stock for the smelting processes. In order to produce one ton of iron, one
typically needs a mix of 1 ¾ tons of the concentrate (ore), ¾ ton of charcoal
or coke, and ¼ ton of limestone. Typically furnaces stand 30 feet tall.
Traditionally the materials were placed in the furnace in layers. The first
layer was charcoal, the next layer limestone, followed by the iron ore. Stoked
in this manner the furnace burned by natural draft. Now forced air is used, in
blast furnaces, and the charge (fuel and ore etc.) is continuously supplied. The
coke burns at an extremely high temperature by which the iron in the ore melts.
In the process a small amount of the carbon is absorbed. The limestone combines
with the impurities to form a waste material called, slag. The resulting product
is called "pig iron" that is used for secondary manufacturing. The
Coke that powers the modern process is derived from destructive distillation of
low-ash, low-sulfur bituminous coal. The coke making involves a high temperature
process (typically 1100°C) in an oxygen deficient atmosphere that concentrates
the carbon. Coke making is a separate industry attached to the steel industry.
In steel making, typically 4 tons of air is required, per ton of steel, which is
either vented directly, or cleaned before venting.
making process is simpler. Here 100% of the quarried material is used (no
tailings result). The quarried material is process ready (no pre-processing is
required). The process is non-polluting (no ash or slag are produced). The end
product is derived in a one-step process. The difference between steel
making and basalt processing appears to be of the same order of magnitude as the
difference between flying from San Francisco to Los Angeles via Tokyo, and
taking the LA shuttle.
comparison illustrates the inherent cost differential between steel making and
the nuclear-powered basalt processing, which opens up a whole world of
applications with many types of manufacturing not yet imagined. It
certainly wouldn't make steel production obsolete. Steel has many valuable
qualities. But the potential efficiency in basalt processing will likely result
in many more, and more efficient options, for achieving a certain industrial
for the human dimension
automated production of housing, for example, extruded multi-layer corrugated
wall units and floor units, of multiple types and shapes, etc. could be produced
in single-step processes, for an assembly-ready product that is requiring little
or no post-processing, which would also be light in weight for easy
following: For construction, the strength of steel is 10 times greater than
wood, and that of basalt it 10 times greater than steel, and with a third of the
weight of steel. The resulting advantage could totally revolutionize housing
across the world, and this so rapidly that the self-perception of society itself
housing is one of the basic infrastructures for human development. The
commitment by society to providing itself this infrastructure for free on as
universal a platform as possible, would be nothing less than a commitment by
society to empower with technology-infrastructures the advanced self-development
of its noosphere on which all aspects of development in the world depend. This
intelligently directed intervention would provide for the noosphere an advanced
platform for the further development of its creative power that it might not be
able to achieve without this infrastructure.
infrastructures are basically physical (even education has a physical
component), their effects can however be shaped in such a manner that they
uplift the entire sphere of life, including the biosphere, and above all the
noosphere, and create a New World with a new renaissance in the process, such as
has never been seen before. Advanced technology enables the needed
infrastructures to be created.
three 'levels' of infrastructures possible. One type, for example, takes water
from a water-rich area to a dry area to enable the expansion of the biosphere.
This is a basic type that does not alter the biosphere, but merely expands it
into previously unproductive areas. The second type, is a higher-order
type of infrastructure. It is one that raises the dynamic power of the
biosphere itself, to levels of productivity and creativity that the biosphere
would not be able to attain without these manmade infrastructures since the
conditions required for this type of improvement do not exist naturally on this
planet, which can only be created by human action. Indoor agriculture falls
into this category.
type of infrastructure is of a still higher order by virtue of its intention to
create the same advanced conditions that would empower the biosphere to enable
equivalent improvements in the noosphere - the arena of human congnition and
creative expression. With the provision of free high-quality housing the
noosphere would become empowered to attain a 'density' of self-improvement at a
rate that is not statistically predictable as historic limits would then be
removed across the board of society that would enable conditions that have not
previously been achieved. We saw a bit of this dynamic unfolding during the
Golden Renaissance, which was rapidly torn down with the infusion of imperial
insanity before the noospheric development had reached a critical breakout point
where it would have reached the needed stability.
modern world the noosphere is rapidly collapsing, which is evident in the
collapsing physical productivity around the world and in the general conditions
of life. An economic recovery will likely not be possible without an intense
response to reversing the collapse in the noosphere. It simply won't be possible
to create a nuclear powered world with scientifically enriched agriculture and
space-faring technology, while ever-greater portions of society live under
bridges, or in slum conditions, or are choked to death by rent-slavery. At the
current stage where the economic collapse has become critical and a recovery is
urgently needed the focus has to be on the foundation, the noospheric
improvement that creates the conditions for creative economic development.
Fortunately this improvement is not difficult to achieve. The power resources
and the needed materials all exist in abundance for creating the needed basic
infrastructures, including the physical space for a jumpstart development, which
likewise exists in abundance, and of course the technologies do exist as well.
All that stands in the way at the preset time is the 'hump' of the currently
prevailing 'intense' smallness in thinking that society needs to get accross. No
physical limits stand in the way.
2,000 sqft wood-frame house weighs roughly 50 tons. If this weight was reduced
to only 10 tons with the use of high-strength modules, which should be
achievable with basalt, a single 1 GW basalt processing plant should, on this
platform, be able to produce the modular components for 2,700 houses in one
hour. Even if this theoretical capacity cannot be achieved, the automated
manufacturing of 2,000 houses an hour (17 million houses a year) from a single
facility, would go a long way in changing the living environment of society.
in development dynamics
for achieving a critical breakthrough in all types of development appears to be
determined by two critical factors. One of these is the factor of 'task
density.' The greater the task is, the more likely it will be tackled. And the
second factor may be termed 'task quality.' The term quality in this case
relates a quality of objectives that inspire the greatest possible cultural
optimism (such as getting from Frisco to LA in an hour at a cost so low that you
can afford to go there for an afternoon tea or a concert performance. The NASA
moon-landing project was strong in both factors. That is likely why it
succeeded. Kenney said that we must do it, because it is hard, and society was
inspired by what the human being can accomplish. It still inspires people just
to look back at what was accomplished in crossing the countless hurdles along
the way. Just look at what we did.