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 Post subject: Nano Fabrication
PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2014 3:41 am 
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G'Day,

This is a question about element and molecule distribution through the solar system. I am looking at playing Eclipse Phase. For those who do not know, it is a post-apocalyptic game set largely in our solar system after the Earth becomes uninhabitable.

They have high tech "nanofabricators" aka cornucopia boxes in the setting. In the game they need to have raw material inputs that have the right proportions of elements for them to function. If what you are making needs iron and you don't have it, you can't make it. Humanity is broken into factions scattered across the solar system in various habitats. I am wondering what is the distribution/availability of elements across the bodies of the solar system.

Would there be trade required between the different bodies to do what was required? Or is everything more or less available everywhere between the rocky planet and the moons of the gaseous bodies?

If there is trade, I could see it in the form of slingshots and transfer orbits to economically transmit bulk across the vast distances cheaply.


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 Post subject: Re: Nano Fabrication
PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2014 12:03 pm 
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Everything is available pretty much everywhere, but in far different ratios of common vs rare from one location to another.
Let me give you one interesting example ... Boron.
On Earth, boron is available at several locations in quantities and concentrations high enough that it is harvested with a shovel and sold in bulk for use as a cleaner or part of the general chemical industry.
In the rest of the solar system, Boron is rarer than either Gold or Platinum and would need to be extracted from small hard rock deposits just like silver is.

The reason for this is just as important as the fact.
Boron is water soluble, so on Earth, weather leached vast quantities of hard to get Boron out of the rocks, transported it to large inland seas, and the Boron was concentrated on the bottom of the sea as the water evaporated.
So while Boron is still rare (as a percentage of the Earth's mass), much of it has already been mined, partially refined and concentrated in easy to reach deposits.

So an asteroid colony (just to pick an example) could find the Boron that it needed eventually, but it would be priced closer to a precious metal.
On the other hand, a Mars Colony might discover vast borax (Boron ore) deposits in a long vanished sea bed.
There are huge trade profits to be made in exploiting these relative abundances/scarcities.
Imagine purchasing something like 'scrap metal' on one world and selling it as the equivalent of 'gold ingots' on another.

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 Post subject: Re: Nano Fabrication
PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:00 am 
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I was going to say that WATER might actually be traded to the inner worlds/colonies. Hydrogen and Oxygen together are pretty rare in the inner system (Venus and Mercury) but pretty common everywhere outside of Earth's orbit. The Earth's moon could use the deposits at the north and south polar craters for a while, but that might not last long enough to support a big colony.

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 Post subject: Re: Nano Fabrication
PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:14 am 
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Who's really going to be living on or around the Inner Zone worlds though? It's far easier to live in the Middle or Outer Zones. Shipping water from Mars or the outer system to the Moon might conceivably be easier to do than shipping it from Earth though (you wouldn't have to fight that big gravity well).

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 Post subject: Re: Nano Fabrication
PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:19 am 
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Thanks AT, that is a pretty cool breakdown on what is at play.

I know that different elements precipitate out when the planetesimals form and that comets stir up the mix by adding volatiles. That is why we have so much iron and uranium here. The both precipitate at the same temperature when the planetesimals formed that made up Earth.

I guess I have a significant unknown, in the sci fi future what kind of elements will be used for making things. For example there might be heaps of carbon used instead of the steel of today. In which case the answer can not be found.


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 Post subject: Re: Nano Fabrication
PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:53 pm 
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JustinInOz wrote:
Thanks AT, that is a pretty cool breakdown on what is at play.

I know that different elements precipitate out when the planetesimals form and that comets stir up the mix by adding volatiles. That is why we have so much iron and uranium here. The both precipitate at the same temperature when the planetesimals formed that made up Earth.

I guess I have a significant unknown, in the sci fi future what kind of elements will be used for making things. For example there might be heaps of carbon used instead of the steel of today. In which case the answer can not be found.

Strictly IMO speculation, but I think that the modern electronics industry offers a good glimpse into the future ...
Most electronics start with silicon, which is just stupid common (like Carbon or Hydrogen or Iron or Aluminum), so what really drives technology are the small amounts of hard to get stuff (like gallium) that make all the difference in the world. So even if the future of civilization is marked by a massive shift from Structural Iron to Structural Carbon, most of the cost for a high tech carbon widget will come from the trace elements needed to alter its properties for the application.

So I suggest focusing on all of the rarest elements and just assume that someone will need it for something.
A gas giant may have access to surplus Xenon gas, Mars may have access to surplus water soluble Boron, the asteroid belt may have access to surplus 'Platinum group' elements (dense metals).

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 Post subject: Re: Nano Fabrication
PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:06 pm 
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EDG wrote:
Who's really going to be living on or around the Inner Zone worlds though? It's far easier to live in the Middle or Outer Zones. Shipping water from Mars or the outer system to the Moon might conceivably be easier to do than shipping it from Earth though (you wouldn't have to fight that big gravity well).

I still suspect that the compounds in the atmosphere of Venus may offer a significant economic advantage for some modern chemical processes that might justify construction and settlement of Venusian Aerostats. It is also, outside of Earth, one of the few places in our solar system that offers some radiation protection (magnetosphere and atmosphere).

Mercury is harder to make a case for settlement ... it is just SO hot and so exposed. Perhaps a station at a Sun-Mercury Lagrange point so the planet might shield the station from the sun ... but that's just me grasping at straws.

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 Post subject: Re: Nano Fabrication
PostPosted: Wed Aug 20, 2014 4:19 am 
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EDG wrote:
Who's really going to be living on or around the Inner Zone worlds though? It's far easier to live in the Middle or Outer Zones. Shipping water from Mars or the outer system to the Moon might conceivably be easier to do than shipping it from Earth though (you wouldn't have to fight that big gravity well).


For the most part, humans won't. But in a SF setting with aliens, some of them might prefer to inhabit the inner worlds, and trading with them for exotic materials such as "liquified steam" (to us, water) could be lucrative.

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 Post subject: Re: Nano Fabrication
PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2014 3:01 am 
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There is just SO MUCH solar power available in the inner system... That has to be cheaper than nuclear.

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 Post subject: Re: Nano Fabrication
PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2014 1:14 pm 
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EDG wrote:
Who's really going to be living on or around the Inner Zone worlds though? It's far easier to live in the Middle or Outer Zones. Shipping water from Mars or the outer system to the Moon might conceivably be easier to do than shipping it from Earth though (you wouldn't have to fight that big gravity well).


That and in Eclipse Phase, Earth was taken over by INSANE AIs who do INSANE AI things (not necessarily homicidal).
So you wouldn't be able to get much water there.

Though I'm still of the opinion that most people would go get water from ice asteroids and possibly comets. I see it as the solution that most ships will use in Traveller systems that don't have gas giants.

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