The heat island effect causes a lot of concern in cities, so some researchers propose this crazy idea: artificial and passable clouds.
Do you remember when you looked at the clouds lying on the ground and identified their shapes with elements or living beings? This game, which many of us have played in our childhood, only people with great imagination continue to play in their adulthood. And it is that, with maturity, we are losing some of the most interesting qualities that we possess. A pity, really. But as long as some people maintain that integrity, humanity will remain safe.
These people give us the spark that we sometimes find difficult and teach us paths that we would never have thought of. I have no doubt that in the daring proposal that we present to you this week there is one or several people who look at the cloud formations visualizing churches, elephants or paintings by Picasso. And it is that you have to be very special to not only imagine, but conceptualize the following idea: artificial clouds that fight against the warming of cities.
Artificial clouds that fight climate change
The idea has been proposed by the imagination and design studio based in New York and Bergen, called Framlab. This comes from the fusion of the words Fram (name of the first Norwegian explorer who reached the South Pole); and lab, laboratory (laboratory or Laboratorium). A studio that dedicates its time and effort to launching ideas that promote social and ecological care… Ideas that are either curious or crazy, depending on how you look at it.
They call the proposal Oversky (above the sky?) and it is an urban infrastructure that takes advantage of passive technologies to cool cities. This modular system is (obviously) inspired by clouds, its main quality being that of being able to “float” and, at the same time, mitigating the effect called “urban heat island”. These heat islands occur in certain spaces in cities, where temperatures rise exponentially.
how clouds work
In fact, the study indicates that clouds are not always elements that reduce the warming of the Earth, sometimes they increase it. They explain to us on their website that there are two types of clouds. On the one hand, the low and thick clouds that reflect the sunlight, reducing the heat that can reach us; and on the other, the thin and tall ones, which retain heat below them, causing an increase in temperatures. Moreover, what is worrying is that the more the earth warms, the more it will move the clouds away from its surface, and the more greenhouse effect will be generated.
They paint us black, I know. From my point of view, when someone paints the future very black, it is because they are either very alarmed by what could happen, or they want to sell us their idea very well… Whatever the case, it is a fact that clouds can cause a greenhouse effect. So we must, at least, pay attention to the proposal of the study. Whether it is viable or not, time will tell.
How are artificial clouds created?
Basically, the study proposes low-altitude floating formations, very close to the streets, that serve as a heat barrier. These clouds or blocks (they are called that) would be connected to both sides of the street, or to just one, in certain areas, executing several actions at the same time. The first is the most obvious, these artificial clouds will cause shady microclimates in cities by expelling the heat of the sun in the areas where they are installed.
The outer layer is designed to reflect heat, hardly absorbing radiation, keeping the surface temperature very low. This coating is executed based on a technique called radiative cooling. The structure that you see in the images is made based on nanophotonic engineering (a lot of «swearing» today, huh?) and is based on nanoscale air pockets, which reflect sunlight and part of the radiation.
The lower part of the structure is covered with titanium oxide, a material that is capable of decomposing the polluted air that hits it, cleaning it of impurities. But there’s more, don’t go away! The blocks are designed to capture and collect rainwater for use as a hydronic radiant cooling system. This works by cooling the interior of the structure, because yes, you guessed it: the structure will be walkable.
Blocks you can walk on
Through accesses that will be practiced from nearby buildings, the artificial clouds will be passable. These will provide new spaces to cities, for cultural centers, classrooms, art studios, offices and cinemas, etc. A new soil in the air, I really like this!! These new spaces envision the designers to be public, which, from my humble point of view, would not necessarily be so. The fact is that it is exciting to generate new passable areas.
The passive technology behind this idea is a direct legacy of the Zeppelin, that marvelous airship that was wrecked in a freak accident (the Hindenburg, remember?). Today, experimentation with these LTAs (lighter-than-air vehicles) has continued, creating ships that are much safer, more advanced, and with a lower carbon footprint; something that makes them ideal for this singular proposal.
How to combat global warming
The frames or support elements of the blocks would be made of carbon fiber (a very resistant and light element), a material that would create the gas cells that will cause their ascent. This gas will be helium and will cause the structure to levitate (mole) by displacing the air because it weighs less than it. You know, the denser air goes down, and the less dense goes up.
In short, the idea is wonderful, its implementation complex, although it seems possible and well studied. However, it is still just that, an idea, more to make us reflect on the dangers of global warming than as a substantial solution. And it is that obviously, it would only solve a tiny part of the problem. Still, it’s a cool idea worth discovering.