Geothernal and Nanotech

Dan Clemmensen (
Mon, 01 Sep 1997 13:51:06 -0400 wrote:
> In a message dated 97-09-01 10:03:56 EDT, in response to an earlier post of
> mine you write:
[SNIP : home geothermal is already broadly available]
> All Right!! So it IS possible? Only minute amounts of power...but in
> principle it'spossible...
> It seems to me the problem is then to improve the effeciency of the
> mechanisms as much as possible...possibly as you implied...nanothech
> materials tech.
Ev, the power isn't minute, it's just difuse. That's
OK, because nearly all the power you use in your home
is in a very difuse manner, for heating, cooling,
and domestic hot water. You can make fairly effective
use of a difuse source if you can use it directly, as
for cooling your house using the ground as a heat sink.
concentrating the energy gets hard. The lower the heat
differential, the more working fluid you need, and the
laws of thermodynamics place very tough constraints
on your designs. Fotunately, you only need this
hi-quality energy for a very small part of your
overall household needs. With Nanotech, the balence
between captial costs and running costs shifts
dramatically, and geothermal becomes much more
attractive. Currently, the payback is 2-6 years,
depending on climate and availability of land.

IMO, we nanotech can easily be powered using
geothermal and solar at our current population
density sufficiently to permit each of us to live
a lifestyle that's wildy luxurious by today's
standards, with no need for outside energy. You
can almost use today's technologies to meet today's
concept of modestly wealthy lifestyle. With nanotech,
our energy usage can be a great deal mor efficient,
with near-perfcect insulation, heat exchangers
everywhere, perfectly smooth pipes with custom-
designed curves and adaptive laminar surfeces to
decrease friction, diamondiod vacuum-filled windows,
lighting with near-perfect efficiency, and of course
computer-controlled everything.

However: this vision artificailly holds our current lifestyle
nearly constant, merely moving each human up to the level of
the currently very wealthy. The truth is that a society using
nanotech on this (modest) level will be radically different
than today's society even if no SI emerges. If you have a
power-intensive project, (A large-scale space launch, or rapid
terra-forming) you'll need something beyond solar and geothermal.
I believe that nanotech-built fusion plants make the most
sense for these projects.