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Making Food Directly from Solar Energy

Discussion in 'Alternative Energy' started by Val Gretchev, Jul 29, 2011.

  1. Val Gretchev

    Val Gretchev Member Forum Supporter

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    Whitby, ON, Canada
    This reads like a Science Fiction story, although it’s not too far fetched. I have had this idea for over 35 years but the technology just wasn't there yet.

    Feeding 6 billion people (soon to be 9 billion) by standard farming methods isn't going to be feasible. Unless we are willing to accept a major population die-off, we will need to invent a new method of obtaining sustenance.

    While most people are concentrating on finding alternative energy sources for our cars, planes, air-conditioners, etc., most are ignoring the caloric energy required to keep our bodily fire burning. Even now there is mass starvation in parts of the world and we just send money.

    By stepping back and looking at the big picture, one realizes that growing food has not changed for a long time and only through use of energy derived from fossil fuels has it been able to keep pace with demand. As oil reserves are depleted, farm produce will become so expensive only the very rich will be able to afford real food.

    Therefore, I propose a shift in focus to the development of artificial photosynthesis. Since photosynthesis is now well understood, we should be able to duplicate electronically what nature does so well.

    Imagine an Integrated Circuit module such as the old EPROM device that had a window over the silicone chip and was used to erase the memory with ultra-violet light. This rectangular piece of plastic or ceramic had electrical pins on the 2 long sides. Now imagine a couple of tiny tubes integrated into the plastic module on the two ends. These tubes, once inside the module, split in two, then split again several times until they reach the silicone chip in the center. Then, nanotubes etched into the silicone die continue to split and deliver tube contents to the very heart of the circuit. By this time, we have thousands of identical "anvils" where single molecules of water and other elements can be held in place according to a formula for making hydrocarbons.

    The area around these islands is laid out with transistors and other electronic circuits that are required to break apart the water molecules and arrange Carbon and Hydrogen in a specific order. The window on top of the module is actually a number of photocells arranged to produce sufficient voltage from sunlight and power the device. The electrical pins coming out the sides are for communications with neighboring devices.

    Now imagine hundreds of thousands of these modules laid out on a substrate in a desert where there is plenty of sunshine. You would still have to pipe in water but Carbon Dioxide is always available in the atmosphere.

    There are several configurations for these modules. One would build molecules of carbohydrates, another proteins, and yet another fats. These all have the same atoms in them but in slightly different positions.

    The resulting effluent is gathered and piped to a local factory where they are combined and processed into edible commodities similar to breakfast cereal, rice, etc.

    Even if there is no sunlight, electrical energy can be supplied directly to the modules, let's say from a fusion reactor that may be powering a space ship.

    The Vegans of the world couldn't object to eating these foods since no animals were involved. The genetic modification opponents couldn’t object since no DNA of any kind was involved in the process. The cancer conscious people couldn’t object since this food would contain 0 harmful chemicals that enter the current food chain.

    So you see, just a little bit of R & D dollars and a serious commitment could go a long way to solving the world’s hunger problems. All I have to do is convince the government or Bill Gates to invest in my idea. Something akin to the Manhattan project could solve the remaining engineering problems and food shortages would be gone once and for all.
     
  2. alec_t

    alec_t Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Are you suggesting that atomic devices should be used to eliminate populations? Yes, that would certainly reduce the demand for food!! ;-)
     
  3. shortbus=

    shortbus= Well-Known Member

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    I'd go with Soylent Green.
     

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