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New Freitas paper: Diamond Trees

Rob Freitas has a new paper up:

Robert A. Freitas Jr., “Diamond Trees (Tropostats):  A Molecular Manufacturing Based System for Compositional Atmospheric Homeostasis,” IMM Report 43, 10 February 2010

Abstract. The future technology of molecular manufacturing will enable long-term sequestration
of atmospheric carbon in solid diamond products, along with sequestration of lesser masses of
numerous air pollutants, yielding pristine air worldwide ~30 years after implementation. A
global population of 143 x 10^9 20-kg “diamond trees” or tropostats, generating 28.6 TW of
thermally non-polluting solar power and covering ~0.1% of the planetary surface, can create and
actively maintain compositional atmospheric homeostasis as a key step toward achieving
comprehensive human control of Earth’s climate.

27 Responses to “New Freitas paper: Diamond Trees”

  1. Mikee Says:

    Diamond burns in air. So turning atmospheric carbon into diamond-like solids through the use of nanomachinery is no more a permanent sequestration of atmospheric carbon than growing trees.

  2. Jonathan Says:

    <sarcasm>It’s amazing how long the media has overlooked the 1st degree burns so many women have on their ring fingers from when their diamond wedding rings spontaneously combusted.</sarcasm> Unless someone applies a blow-torch to the devices I highly doubt they will burn. If they are caught in a lightning strike, of course they will burn, as will almost anything else.

  3. Helena Says:

    But then again, maybe we should start growing real trees, so that in the future, we can be prepared already.

  4. Erin Says:

    Mikee, I would like you to explain why this is not a good solution? The point he makes is that we can extract the excess carbon and reassemble it into useful diamondoid solids. Just because carbon can burn does not mean it has to go back into the atmosphere.
    Interestingly enough, one author on nanotechnology made a comment that if we take too much carbon out of the atmosphere, future generations may want to burn more carbon and let it get back there..because plants and trees need to build their structures with it. We could have the opposite of what is attempting to be discussed today.

  5. Instapundit » Blog Archive » SEQUESTERING CARBON with diamond trees? Says:

    [...] SEQUESTERING CARBON with diamond trees? [...]

  6. CosmicConservative Says:

    Heh, I love this sort of futurism…. Sure, it’s technically possible, in fact it’s just barely technically plausible but it’s not yet remotely technically feasible. And by the time it is, it’s highly doubtful the current manufactured hysteria about CO2 will still be an issue after the oceans don’t flood, hurricanes don’t wreak havoc, the ice caps haven’t melted, the polar bears haven’t died and the rest of the end of the world predictions have fizzled into the collective memory just as the “global cooling” hysteria of the 70s already has.

    Still, the technology to manufacture diamondoid objects will likely have some value, but to think that .1% of the earth’s surface will be covered with carbon-sequestering diamondoid “trees” is actually quite hilarious to contemplate. It sounds like a Kurt Vonnegut novel concept…

  7. jay Says:

    And when “future technology” invents teleportation and Warp drive we can just dump the excess co2 in space…. 9_9

  8. Warthog Says:

    Um, If they are made of diamond how would you cut them down?

  9. Grey Says:

    @ Mikee “Diamond burns in air” Yeah at a MINIMUM temperature of 600 degrees Celsius…if it’s that hot I think we have bigger things to worry about.

  10. kwo Says:

    Diamond burns in air.

    Only at temperatures above 700 deg C.

  11. Portones Says:

    I agree with Helena. Why not grow more trees? I can’t believe that an effort to grow a huge mass (of diamanoids, Fullerenes, graphitic sheets or other bizzare carbon forms) would not require huge ammounts of energy. Maybe you can generate such energy in a “green” manner (from solar, or nuclear, or Cape Cod wind turbines). But use that energy for the purposes for which we now need energy. Good luck to Mr. Frietas in finding practical uses and means to grow tropostats. But good grief, not everything has to be justified with wild schemes to cleanse our air of colorless, odorless, essential CO2!

  12. Mikee Says:

    Creating diamond may well be a wonderful way to store carbon. I only point out that diamond is no more permanent than wood, regarding combustion. Diamond is of course more resilient to termites than are trees, and industrial cutting tools are much better when they are made of diamond than of oak.

  13. P. J. Says:

    Diamond melts at 3550 Kelvin. You can’t burn it with a propane torch. If you are good and know what you are doing you might be able to burn it with an oxy-acetylene torch. The fire can’t spread from one tree to the next. Mikee you are being facetious. Stop that.

  14. P. J. Says:

    Forget about the lightning strike too. Diamond is an insulator.

  15. Robert A. Freitas Jr. Says:

    Small particles of iron or diamond will burn if exposed to open flame, as will small bits of almost anything that can be oxidized, including wood, because surface/volume ratio is high and burning takes place at the surface. At larger 1-10 mm sizes, wood (i.e., “kindling”) will still burn from an open match but iron (e.g., construction nails) will not. (Isolated gemstones in diamond rings are small enough to burn using a jeweler’s torch or in the intense heat generated by a burn-to-the-ground house fire but cannot be ignited by a single match.) But at still larger object sizes, ignition becomes harder – oak wood logs will not light from a match. Oak log fires need 550-750 K to ignite, then burn at 750-900 K; diamond needs 1100 K to ignite in air (1000 K in pure oxygen); oxy-flame cutting burns solid iron in pure oxygen at 1140 K and 19th century blacksmiths reported iron burns in air at 1600-1800 K. We lack experimental data, but a diamond brick may prove as difficult to ignite as an iron bar in ordinary circumstances, e.g., a house fire. That’s because at larger sizes, surface/volume ratio is low and thermal conductivity predominates, which is why a match ignites steel wool but not an iron nail (which conducts heat away too fast to allow the surface to reach the ignition point). Since diamond has a thermal conductivity much higher than iron – e.g., 2000 W/m-K (diamond), 80 W/m-K (iron), 0.1 W/m-K (oak wood), at ~300 K – it seems likely that houses built of close-fitted diamond bricks (perhaps incorporating nonflammable thermal insulation like air, water, or vacuum, for occupant comfort) should be at least as hard to ignite as a house of iron.

  16. Light Says:

    Why not just sequester CO2 into Graphite instead? Seems to me it would be a lot cheaper and just as persistent as other carbon forms.

  17. mitchell porter Says:

    “I only point out that diamond is no more permanent than wood, regarding combustion.”

    How often do you get 700-degree-Celsius heatwaves?

  18. biobob Says:

    erm …. this diamond stuff is all fine hypothetically, with all those required hypothetical energy inputs, however …..

    1) you all ARE aware that scientists have NOT definitively established that rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations are actually the result of fossil fuel burning – it seems likely but there are other possibilities eg land use changes, ocean warming, natural cycles, etc …..

    2) we do not know whether increased atmospheric CO2 will naturally be sequestered and returned to pre-1945+ levels by existing processes

    3) the amount we understand concerning global carbon cycles is vastly exceeded by what we DON’T know and anyone who says otherwise is a idiot (or AGW warmista = same thing)

  19. jim moore Says:

    Sorry BioBob, I have to call you on your bullshit.
    We do have very good estimates on the amount of coal, oil and natural gas that gets burned every year. We know for a fact that main products of the combustion of fossil fuels are carbon dioxide and water. Therefore we have good estimates on the amount of human generated CO2. In fact when we calculate that number we get an expectation that the concentration of CO2 in the air should be going up about twice as fast. (it is not because natural processes are absorbing about ½ the amount of CO2 we release.)

    So I have a few questions for you:
    What happened to the CO2 from burning fossil fuels if it is not in the air?
    (Did it go to Gault’s Gulch?)
    What natural process actually explains the data we have on CO2 concentration?
    Sense burning fossil fuels changes the carbon isotope ratio in the air, it also changes the carbon isotope ratio in tree rings, and these changes matches up with the historical pattern of burning fossil fuels. How else are you going to explain that?
    Are you ignorant or just lying?

  20. biobob Says:

    Sorry, Jim, I call bullshit on your bullshit, rofl. You have bought the AGW crapola. If we know so much, why doesn’t that 50% inaccuracy bother you at all? FIFTY PERCENT ? Why not 3,000% ? or 2%?

    Jim, indeed have good numbers on fossil fuel co2 generation, relatively speaking. The problem is that number is only part of the contribution to global CO2 budget. What we do NOT have numbers for are MANY geochemical processes, natural in/organic decomposition, cycling, and sequestration of CO2. In fact the missing numbers could dwarf the fossil fuel co2 generation, reflecting an entirely hidden set of numbers of both CO2 generation and sequestration. As you say, they KNOW they are missing some sequestration process/es. And very few budgets provide a number for the carbonic acid sub-cycle, deep ocean cycles, and centuries-period cycles, which all potentially are HUGE sinks/generators of CO2. So we don’t know the actual percentage contribution of fossil fuel CO2 to the global CO2 budget.

    I keep on seeing people who are obviously NOT scientists think that humans know so much. BULLSHIT ! What we don’t know dwarfs what we do know like the universe to your big toe.

    Isotope ratios are just more AGW bull as well. There are tenuous assumptions there we could drive a truck thru.

    At I said, it IS possible that fossil fuel consumption is responsible for atmospheric CO2 increases but we don’t know if other processes are also at work, eg ocean surface temperature increases, which potentially could be responsible for all or some of the increase, and have been noted in ice cores, for what those proxies are worth.

    The point is that taking action to play with global geochemical processes given our state of knowledge is presumptuous if not potentially catastrophic. We start this crap and then find out we are WRONG, and what is the fallout ? We don’t know that either. ROFL

  21. jim moore Says:

    Well Biobob,
    I guess we agree
    ” that taking action to play with global geochemical processes given our state of knowledge is presumptuous if not potentially catastrophic.”

    So do you agree we shouldn’t be burning gigatons of fossil fuels every year?

  22. jim moore Says:

    For anyone interested in the scientific evidence for carbon isotopes showing that humans are causing the increase in CO2 :

    ” CO2 produced from burning fossil fuels or burning forests has quite a different isotopic composition from CO2 in the atmosphere. This is because plants have a preference for the lighter isotopes (12C vs. 13C); thus they have lower 13C/12C ratios. Since fossil fuels are ultimately derived from ancient plants, plants and fossil fuels all have roughly the same 13C/12C ratio – about 2% lower than that of the atmosphere. As CO2 from these materials is released into, and mixes with, the atmosphere, the average 13C/12C ratio of the atmosphere decreases.

    Isotope geochemists have developed time series of variations in the 14C and 13C concentrations of atmospheric CO2. One of the methods used is to measure the 13C/12C in tree rings, and use this to infer those same ratios in atmospheric CO2. This works because during photosynthesis, trees take up carbon from the atmosphere and lay this carbon down as plant organic material in the form of rings, providing a snapshot of the atmospheric composition of that time. If the ratio of 13C/12C in atmospheric CO2 goes up or down, so does the 13C/12C of the tree rings. This isn’t to say that the tree rings have the same isotopic composition as the atmosphere – as noted above, plants have a preference for the lighter isotopes, but as long as that preference doesn’t change much, the tree-ring changes wiil track the atmospheric changes.

    Sequences of annual tree rings going back thousands of years have now been analyzed for their 13C/12C ratios. Because the age of each ring is precisely known** we can make a graph of the atmospheric 13C/12C ratio vs. time. What is found is at no time in the last 10,000 years are the 13C/12C ratios in the atmosphere as low as they are today. Furthermore, the 13C/12C ratios begin to decline dramatically just as the CO2 starts to increase — around 1850 AD. This is exactly what we expect if the increased CO2 is in fact due to fossil fuel burning. Furthermore, we can trace the absorption of CO2 into the ocean by measuring the 13C/12C ratio of surface ocean waters. While the data are not as complete as the tree ring data (we have only been making these measurements for a few decades) we observe what is expected: the surface ocean 13C/12C is decreasing. Measurements of 13C/12C on corals and sponges — whose carbonate shells reflect the ocean chemistry just as tree rings record the atmospheric chemistry — show that this decline began about the same time as in the atmosphere; that is, when human CO2 production began to accelerate in earnest.***

    In addition to the data from tree rings, there are also of measurements of the 13C/12C ratio in the CO2 trapped in ice cores. The tree ring and ice core data both show that the total change in the 13C/12C ratio of the atmosphere since 1850 is about 0.15%. This sounds very small but is actually very large relative to natural variability. The results show that the full glacial-to-interglacial change in 13C/12C of the atmosphere — which took many thousand years — was about 0.03%, or about 5 times less than that observed in the last 150 years.

    For those who are interested in the details, some relevant references are:
    Stuiver, M., Burk, R. L. and Quay, P. D. 1984. 13C/12C ratios and the transfer of biospheric carbon to the atmosphere. J. Geophys. Res. 89, 11,731-11,748.
    Francey, R.J., Allison, C.E., Etheridge, D.M., Trudinger, C.M., Enting, I.G., Leuenberger, M., Langenfelds, R.L., Michel, E., Steele, L.P., 1999. A 1000-year high precision record of d13Cin atmospheric CO2. Tellus 51B, 170–193.
    Quay, P.D., B. Tilbrook, C.S. Wong. Oceanic uptake of fossil fuel CO2: carbon-13 evidence. Science 256 (1992), 74-79

  23. biobob Says:

    Our position on oxidation of fossil fuels does not signify one iota. I guarndamntee you that every carbon atom in every ounce of fossilized carbon will be oxidized or reduced sooner or later. The vast majority of extant deposits will be harvested by humans up to the economic feasibility level for that carbon source regardless of the political play. It’s simply economics, since cheap energy/carbon rules. Any remaining carbon deposits will be oxidized/reduced via natural processes. eg burning from lightning strikes, bacterial action, etc. It’s simply a question of the time scale. Earth has been doing this for mega-millenia and will continue irrespective our wishes and long after we are gone.

    Isotopic analysis of tree-ring carbon is a nice fairy tale but does not explicate other processes accelerated by man or otherwise, known and unknown, which can mobilize sequestered carbon deposits, preferentially mobilize istotopes, or differentiate between fossil fuel oxidation from any of those other processes which mobilize carbon into the biosphere. And given recent history, such analysis probably needs to be investigated for fraud and data manipulation, sad but true. The key word in your statement is INFER.

    Like almost all of these AGW theories, they are poorly differentiated from your basic WAG [wild ass guess]. Until actual experimentation vs observational investigation into carbon cycles becomes the norm, and predictive science becomes more accurate than looking out the window to predict rain, AGW is BS. Show me the error bars, if any, and I will show you the state of play. .5 degree C ROFL – the daily temperature noise is a 100 to a thousand times larger and you expect us to trust a totally arbitrary temperature and questionable recording schema accurate to the closest degree or two to allow a .5 c anomaly ? u r joking.

    None of this is science – it’s witchcraft.

  24. jim moore Says:

    well bioboob,
    Just because you assert that something is crapola, a fairy tale, or witchcraft doesn’t make it so.
    To paraphrase your argument: Just because CO2 concentration in the atmosphere increased as mankind increased its burning of fossil fuels does not mean that the two are related. And sure just because the isotope ratios of carbon in the air has changed five times more in the last 150 years than in the last 10,000 years doesn’t mean that its related to burning of fossil fuels. I mean jeppers you haven’t disproved that underwear gnomes weren’t responsible for the change.

    Oh and by the way Jim Moore is my real name and I am a scientist.
    Do you have the courage to put your real name on the comments you have been making and for the record do you have a degree in any field of science?

  25. Fabrication of Rutile TiO2 Tapered Nanotubes with Rectangular Cross-Sections via Anisotropic Corrosion Route Says:

    ZhouXingfu groups in Nanjing university of Technology have prepared rutile TiO2 tapered nanotubes via an anisotropic corrosion method for the first time. The rutile TiO2 nanorods obtained by the anisotropic growth method were used as the precursor. The obtained TiO2 nanotubes had rectangular cross-sections and tapered inner structures. In this study, the anisotropic corrosion in the anisotropic growth sites has shown its key role in the formation of TiO2 nanotubes. This new strategy of using anisotropic corrosion for the formation of nanotubes helps in understanding the anisotropy of the TiO2 crystal and provides new possibilities for the preparation of other metal oxide nanotubes. The clarified corrosion behavior of different crystalline facet will guide the fabrication of TiO2 effective anticorrosion coatings. Moreover, tapered inner structure is favor for the orderly assembly of multi-sized quantum dot and catching the rainbows, this novel rutile TiO2 nanotube with tapered inner structure and very high surface area is a promising candidate for applications in dye or quantum dot sensitized solar cells and oxygen sensors.
    From: Chem. Commun., 2010, DOI: 10.1039/b921750a

  26. sean fyresite Says:

    I beleive that manufactured diamonds are going to be used for the masses in the near future.

  27. CEH Says:


    [...]the Foresight Institute » Blog Archive » New Freitas paper: Diamond Trees[...]…

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