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Transparent Metals In Future Worlds






SciFi summary of transparent metals and substitutes in use.






















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Transparent alumina is perhaps not the best way to describe this concept, but it is the most well-known one. The Star Trek movie shows the starship Enterprise going back in time to find whales and bring them back into the future. The purpose was to show a powerful alien probe that Whales still exist on earth. Transparent alumina was required for its flexibility, strength and transparency. The whales in transit could be monitored through the transparent wall. The tough flexible material was able to withstand the stresses of time travel and spaceflight without rupturing, much better than glass or Perspex could have.

Gemstones are in fact a form of transparent alumina or transparent metal composites. For example sapphires are made up of aluminium oxide (Al2O3), as are rubies. They exist now. They are unfortunately too expensive for many applications in which we may wish to use them . They are also perhaps not as flexible as the transparent alumina available in the time of the starship Enterprise.

There will always be a need for a transparent “sealant”  in many different situations. These enable the separation of two different environments, the transparency allowing monitoring into the other environmental space. Imagine nuclear reactors with transparent casing – an interesting idea, perhaps for monitoring the cooling space around the reactor. (Unfortunately, the nuclear reactions are of course invisible).



Other Examples from Science Fiction include:

Jack Vance: Alastor Cluster Series: the Palace of the Connatic  at Lusz. The Connatic is the ruler of a star cluster near to our Milky Way. The transparent arches are said to rise over a kilometre above the water. Steel though not transparent is certainly a very strong and flexible building material capable of sustaining extreme loads and stresses. However a kilometre tall – perhaps not.
Jantiffe Tourist Stars SigmaPsiJantiff Ravensroke

The example of Bullerite highlights the problem of instability of some of the materials we use in construction. We build cities in which the buildings have a use by life of 100 years. We do not look beyond this time as it seems so far away. But what happens at the 200 or 300 year mark. Can we really afford to replace ALL our buildings every few hundred years. Especially if the building material should decay into a chemically unstable and dangerous decomposite after what appears to be, at least initially, a very long time.



What does this technology remind me of in Brisbane?

Go to the Eumundi markets or the markets in the Channon. There are quite a number of other markets also in Brisbane. Look at the gemstones and perhaps find a few other gems.



Best examples of Science Fiction referring to this technology:

HR Tolkien: Lord of the Rings. Consider the case of Saruman’s distant viewing device. Add a bit of imagination and perhaps it could be a form of quantum glass capable of seeing here from particles released elsewhere. The appeal is that they’re no longer needs to be a direct transmission path between the particles created to interact with the substance understudy and the receiver. Any sufficiently advanced science would appear to be magic to less advanced or technically adept peoples.
SarumanWizardPsi SigmaPsiSaruman the Wizard

Battle Tech: The MechWarrior series. These mighty robots are the weapons of the future. But maybe not if they need glass viewing screens. Glass is too fragile to serve as an armoured defence as well as a portal for viewing. If there was ever a machine that needed transparent alumina, this is it.
Briam Cameron Commander MechWarrior SigmaPsiBrian Cameron

James Blish: Cities in Flight series. The spin dizzy drives generate a screen to protect the city from space (e.g. meteors) and to enclose its atmosphere. Naturally, this has a property of being transparent, allowing for viewing  the magnificence of space from your city in the stars. We see the same concept in Star Trek where force  shields are replacing glass or even transparent alumina to maintain atmospheric integrity. The fly in the ointment is of course “War” or “Conflict”.  What happens to the technology when you start shooting at it.
City Fathers Computers City Fathers

Brisbane In Flight Brisbane In Flight


David Brin: Sun diver gives a picture of humanity exploring the sun using alien technologies. However the aliens want to destroy and discredit the human endeavours. They neutralise all the technologies with which they are familiar. However, they have very little appreciation of the technologies that humans have developed themselves. In the end it is only ourselves on whom we can rely and not on the technologies of others. All technologies can be neutralised. Spaceships which need to operate in hostile environments must have multiple layered failsafes – akin to systems existing in a submarine. Only complementary and layered technology allows for a ship to take damage and to continue functioning while providing protection and support for its crew.
Tom Orley Terragens Agent SigmaPsiTom Orley

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Allan Dean Foster: Nor Crystal Tears. Citizens of the Commonwealth find their minds stolen by a “universe” existing through the portal of an exotic and valuable crystal. Aliens have introduced malicious technologies within these crystals to enhance the damage done to their owners. The key question is of course what does exist through the portal of the crystal – if anything at all.
FlinxTravellorPsi SigmaPsiFlinx



EE Doc Smith: Skylark series. Arenak is the first of the power metals to be discovered by humanity. It is incredibly hard – harder than diamond. It is incredibly durable – lasting many many times longer than a simple metallic razor used for the same purpose. It is incredibly dense and able to tolerate energy loading – in effect becoming a form of armour for space metals and for warships. A dream come true – even perhaps the ultimate new form of glass as a building material. A building material creating a window so hard that humans and even machines or vehicles crashing into it would bounce off.

The only problem with this aspect of Science Fiction is that it does not explain how the material can bypass the restrictions of atomic based matter to create something with properties that are distinct from those of the individual components. In short, it  just doesn’t all add up. If however, we are able to change the properties of the atoms – perhaps by manipulating other more esoteric dimensions of matter, perhaps it could all come true.

Seaton Chemist Space SigmaPsiRichard Seaton


Clever New Applications:

Commercial armoured gemstone production. Being able to produce large sheets of rubies for example may well give options to allow the replacement of glass in many settings. Artificial gravity may well allow the generation of large-scale intense pressure to be able to support  this type of industrial production. The control of crystallisation of course introduces new directions for the use this type of technological approach.