§ 4.1.1 Zero Gravity to Any Artificial Gravity by Centrifuge
With the exception of the lunar surface, the space environment offers zero gravity, which creates many options not available on Earth. However, if gravity is needed for a process, then artificial gravity can easily be made available by use of a rotating complex to produce a centrifugal force, which is equivalent and practically indistinguishable from gravity. Indeed, any strength of artificial gravity can be provided, whatever is ideal. A rotating industrial facility offers different strengths of gravity at different distances from its axis.
Zero gravity and the absence of wind facilitate the handling of very large components and their assembly into giant structures impossible to build on Earth.
The SMF itself will be a 3-dimensional facility with a layout quite different from Earth factories. The SMF also won't be nearly as massive as an equivalent manufacturing facility on Earth due to gravity considerations.
Zero gravity means no convection currents in molten material, which allows purer material separation processes, mixing of materials which would separate due to gravity on Earth, and perfect crystallization processes (e.g., for solar cells and microelectronics). Many alloys and crystals are easily producible in space which are practically impossible to make on Earth.
PERMANENT has received several questions from people related to the handling of materials in zero gravity. In any case where gravity facilitates handling of materials, rotational artificial gravity will give us the capability to use conventional Earth handling techniques so that we can employ Earth-standard processes.
Nonetheless, there are countless ways to transport and handle material in zero gravity, most of them based on Earth methods at mines and factories, including:
- Pipeline screw conveyors or centrifugal pumps for raw materials (tunnel with helical blades or propellers)
- Gas pressure and pumps (mentioned in some literature but I don't like it)
- Various kinds of conveyors, elevators and apron feeders
- Packaging and ballistic transport
I don't see significant problems in the category of transport, but I do see significantly more flexibility and advantages.
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