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Opinion: The Dyson Sphere Could Solve the Energy Crisis

February 28, 2019

     The demand for energy will have increased nearly 50% by 2050, according to the most current predicted human population increase. As such, finding efficient ways to produce energy without destroying the environment need to be prioritized. Even with the advent of non-hydro renewables like wind and solar, clean energy production might not be sustainable by 2050. Current predictions estimate that wind and solar will only make up 1/3 of global power generation. While that is a huge increase from the current 6-10%, some fear that it might not be enough.

      The Dyson Sphere has been suggested as a way to meet energy demands. It is a megastructure meant to harnesses the power of the ultimate source of energy: the sun. The sun shines with the power of a trillion nuclear bombs per second, 100 quintillion times more powerful the most efficient nuclear reactor.

     If successfully implemented, a Dyson Sphere would be a breakthrough on par with the discovery of fire and the wheel. It would provide more than enough energy to power all ventures to outer space. A new age of exploration would be ushered where humans finally transition from a planetary species to an interstellar one.

     Ideally, a Dyson Sphere would not be an actual sphere surrounding the sun. That sort of a design would be easily susceptible to impacts, causing it to break and crash straight into the sun. An actual viable design would be to have a swarm of mirrors and panels collecting sunlight. However, such a structure would be difficult to build. Each panel would be around a square kilometer, which means we would need 30 quadrillion panels to cover enough of the Sun to have unlimited energy. Even if they are built as lightly as possible, 100 quintillion tons of material would still be needed. Additionally, we would expend an insane amount of energy to position them at their respective places. To top it off, we need a permanent infrastructure set up in space to start building the Dyson Sphere.

     Materials, design, and energy are the biggest factors to consider when building a Dyson Sphere. The amount of materials required demand the disassembly of an entire planet. Mercury is a good candidate as it is close to the Sun and very metal rich. It has no atmosphere and only ⅓ of Earth’s gravitational pull. We would be able to move materials a lot less and with a fewer amounts of energy since it would be relatively easy to launch off materials to space. The actual panels can’t be designed like conventional solar panels, that are very intricate and prone to breaking. They need to be able to function without repairs for astronomically long times and be very cheap to produce. Otherwise, they would simply be enormous mirrors that redirect the sunlight into a focused point containing a solar station that can harness the energy. All this construction and material acquisition would require energy never before utilized by humans. For example, if we used all the fossil fuels and Uranium on Earth, we would still only be able to launch as much mass as Mount Everest. That might sound like much, but it pales in comparison the planetary disassembly we would need to do.

     While the Dyson Sphere will most likely not be built until millenia into the future, it is interesting to picture what it would require given the current restrictions.

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