Category Archives: graphene

Future kinetic hyper-weapons

I wrote up some new high-end weapons that are feasible for use mid-century or soon after. This is the summary slide, and the full article describing how they all work follows as a pdf.

weapons

Full article is here: Hyper-weapons

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The all-carbon Katana

This idea is just sci-fi, for now, and relates to my sci-fi book.

Even with all the available fancy guns available to them, modern sci-fi heroes often use swords. Gi Joe, Blade, The Matrix, Riddick, Star Wars are just a few that spring immediately to mind.

Often they use Katanas or Ninja swords because they look good.

In my last post I mentioned cubic carbon. I originally introduced the concept in my main blog at:

http://timeguide.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/22nd-century-speculative-sci-fi-super-chemistry/

Cubic carbon would be very hard, it can be made at all. It could hold an incredibly sharp edge. The blade of a Katana is usually made of folded carbon steel, but  with carbon fibre and graphene string to make and wrap the handle and guards, composites of carbon nanotubes, graphene and cubic carbon for the blade, and a cubic carbon edge, with maybe a few diamonds and graphite patterning to decorate Carbon Girl’s Katana, a pure carbon Katana could be made for both her and Carbon Man. No other materials are needed at all. 

Perfect. But if they aren’t allowed to take them with them for some reason, they can quickly fabricate temporary but lethal substitute using nothing more than carbon tape.

Disk and dart weapons

I have a toy gun that fires spinning foam disks. It is pretty harmless of course. But it gave me an idea for the armory. Swords are fine for close up engagements, but a gun is hard to beat at a distance.

A graphene disk would be ideal for high-speed projection. The material of the disk would support high electric currents and therefore magnetic field interaction with the gun. Without bothering with too much detail, a future professional version of a disk gun could be made that fires ultra-thin (sharp) but highly strong graphene disks, spinning at high speed, and having minimal air resistance.

So the disks would shoot quite far, and self stabilising so fairly accurate, and very sharp, so would do damage. A high-speed cluster of them could be used to good effect to significantly damage or impede an enemy.

Electromagnetic forces could also be used to fire graphene darts. No new concepts are needed, the rail gun already exists and that mechanism would be perfect at any scale. Darts would scale too. Small darts with just a few layers of graphene would be very lightweight so convey limited mechanical damage, even if travelling fast, so they may be best suited for puncturing and short circuiting electrical equipment. Thicker and heavier ones would be much more lethal, adding mass and strength using any carbon material in the center, and being very streamlined and sharp if they taper the number of layers at the edges.

Cubic carbon is a fanciful material that may not even be possible to fabricate, using all 6 electrons to form bonds with neighbors in a cubic structure. It should be extremely hard, and such a material would be useful to make or add tips or edges to projectiles that could pierce or damage anything.

Carbon tape weapons

There is no shortage of traditional weapons, such as bows and arrows, swords, spears and an endless variety of guns, lasers etc. When none of these are permitted, you could fabricate and entire armory with nothing more than a roll of graphene tape.

Once graphene is easily producible, it will be possible to buy graphene tape. When I was a child, my friends and I used to make swords by rolling up tape measures and pushing the center through and drawing it out as far as possible to a point. If you roll up graphene tape and draw the center out, the point could be pretty sharp. Being graphene, it could also make a pretty strong rapier.

Also by winding some layers around a triangular cross section cardboard tube (or carbon fiber, or even a piece of scrap paper), a pretty rigid tube would result. Bending and tying the ends with strong graphene string or tape would result in a bow or sword.

Graphene weapons

Graphene weapons

The stringed bow would only need very fine string thanks to the huge strength of graphene. This would make a good bow but also make a cutting weapon in it own right. If a layer of tape instead of string were used, the same strength would be available with an even sharper edge.

Carbon foam balloon as military platform

In my sci-fi book, the Carballoon is a huge carbon balloon made mainly from graphene foam. (In a nutshell, graphene foam is made up of tiny graphene spheres with a vacuum inside to give an average density lower than helium.)

http://carbondevices.com/2013/06/28/carbon-foam-high-altitude-balloon-the-car-balloon/

It has many civilian uses as described there, but is also useful militarily. 

Some of the smaller balloons that it can send out would have reconnaissance or espionage functions. Some would have weapon systems on board, and having variable buoyancy, could sneak into an area at high altitude unnoticed before descending and bringing death from above. They could occupy some of the roles occupied by today’s drones, so would likely be covered by similar legislation.

Subject to that legislation, weaponry could include guns, directed energy or particle beam weapons, and graphene dart swarms, as well as missiles and bombs. These weapons would potentially scale with balloon size so that the mothership Car-Balloon would be very powerful.

The main advantage balloons convey is range and duration. They could stay afloat permanently without consuming power. They could sit stealthily for long periods on standby before being woken up to come into action. In fact, all the time they are afloat, the solar cells on the upper sections could accumulate energy and store it in graphene super-capacitors, to be released as required.

Graphene foam would be a very low density solid, so it would not fall if punctured. The pieces would stay afloat even if it were broken up. Self-organisation and assembly functionality could be distributed throughout the foam to allow pieces to come back together, and thus enable continuous self-repair.

Military hoverboards and hovercars

The basic design principles are outlined in

http://carbondevices.com/2015/11/13/using-carbon-to-make-a-landspeeder-or-hoverboard/, recently updated

The article also describes in passing how weak force fields could be realized. I’ll look at this more in future posts.

Militarising them is pretty obvious. Thicker and stronger materials for general shielding, reactive armour, faster engines, more maneuverability etc are all easy to engineer in. I’ll consider approaches to building reactive armor separately. For military use, comms, identification, encryption and so on are also essential but routine approaches to these would be fine.

Adding weaponry and surveillance capability is also easy, but different weapons and sensor capabilities deserve their own articles.

Adding invisibility to a hoverboard is not easy, and would be pretty pointless if the invisibility doesn’t also extend to the rider, but stealth for the car can certainly be optimized. The surface coating can act as a video display, so routine invisibility techniques would work – cameras on one side feeding display on the opposite side. This won’t make the car invisible, but it could make it less conspicuous. Similarly, straightforward camouflage based on surroundings could be implemented using surface-covering displays, without the need for extensive real-time camera links.

Mechanically, force fields would be far weaker than carbon materials, so they would only have military applications for disrupting electromagnetic attacks. They could have more use at high altitudes to help deflect radiation.

Free floating combat drones

First things first.

Free floating combat drones are familiar in some futuristic computer games – Halo and Mass Effect for example. but have the added value of being feasible.

I have spent many hours playing various editions of Mass Effect, from EA Games. It is one of my favorites and has clearly benefited from some highly creative minds. They had to invent a wide range of fictional technology along with technical explanations in the detail for how they are meant to work. Some is just artistic redesign of very common sci-fi ideas, but they have added a huge amount of their own too. Sci-fi and real engineering have always had a strong mutual cross-fertilization. I have lectured sometimes on science fact v sci-fi, to show that what we eventually achieve is sometimes far better than the sci-fi version (Exhibit A – the rubbish voice synthesizers and storage devices use on Star Trek, TOS).

Glyph

Liara talking to her assistant Glyph.Picture Credit: social.bioware.com

In Mass Effect, lots of floating holographic style orbs float around all over the place for various military or assistant purposes. They aren’t confined to a fixed holographic projection system. Disruptor and battle drones are common, and  a few home/lab/office assistants such as Glyph, who is Liara’s friendly PA, not a battle drone. These aren’t just dumb holograms, they can carry small devices and do stuff. The idea of a floating sphere may have been inspired by Halo’s, but the Mass Effect ones look more holographic and generally nicer. (Think Apple v Microsoft). Battle drones are highly topical now, but current technology uses wings and helicopters. The drones in sci-fi like Mass Effect and Halo are just free-floating ethereal orbs. That’s what I am talking about now. They aren’t in the distant future. They will be here quite soon.

I recently updated my post on how to make force field and floating cars or hover-boards.

http://carbondevices.com/2015/11/13/using-carbon-to-make-a-landspeeder-or-hoverboard/

Briefly, they work by creating a thick cushion of magnetically confined plasma under the vehicle that can be used to keep it well off the ground, a bit like a hovercraft without a skirt or fans. Using layers of confined plasma could also be used to make relatively weak force fields. A key claim of the idea is that you can coat a firm surface with a packed array of steerable electron pipes to make the plasma, and a potentially re-configurable and self organizing circuit to produce the confinement field. No moving parts, and the coating would simply produce a lifting or propulsion force according to its area.

This is all very easy to imagine for objects with a relatively flat base like cars and hover-boards, but I later realized that the force field bit could be used to suspend additional components, and if they also have a power source, they can add locally to that field. The ability to sense their exact relative positions and instantaneously adjust the local fields to maintain or achieve their desired position so dynamic self-organisation would allow just about any shape  and dynamics to be achieved and maintained. So basically, if you break the levitation bit up, each piece could still work fine. I love self organisation, and biomimetics generally. I wrote my first paper on hormonal self-organisation over 20 years ago to show how networks or telephone exchanges could self organise, and have used it in many designs since. With a few pieces generating external air flow, the objects could wander around. Cunning design using multiple components could therefore be used to make orbs that float and wander around too, even with the inspired moving plates that Mass Effect uses for its drones. It could also be very lightweight and translucent, just like Glyph. Regular readers will not be surprised if I recommend some of these components should be made of graphene, because it can be used to make wonderful things. It is light, strong, an excellent electrical and thermal conductor, a perfect platform for electronics, can be used to make super-capacitors and so on. Glyph could use a combination of moving physical plates, and use some to add some holographic projection – to make it look pretty. So, part physical and part hologram then.

Plates used in the structure can dynamically attract or repel each other and use tethers, or use confined plasma cushions. They can create air jets in any direction. They would have a small load-bearing capability. Since graphene foam is potentially lighter than helium

http://timeguide.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/could-graphene-foam-be-a-future-helium-substitute/

it could be added into structures to reduce forces needed. So, we’re not looking at orbs that can carry heavy equipment here, but carrying processing, sensing, storage and comms would be easy. Obviously they could therefore include whatever state of the art artificial intelligence has reached, either on-board, distributed, or via the cloud. Beyond that, it is hard to imagine a small orb carrying more than a few hundred grammes. Nevertheless, it could carry enough equipment to make it very useful indeed for very many purposes. These drones could work pretty much anywhere. Space would be tricky but not that tricky, the drones would just have to carry a little fuel.

But let’s get right to the point. The primary market for this isn’t the home or lab or office, it is the battlefield. Battle drones are being regulated as I type, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be developed. My generation grew up with the nuclear arms race. Millennials will grow up with the drone arms race. And that if anything is a lot scarier. The battle drones on Mass Effect are fairly easy to kill. Real ones won’t.

a Mass Effect combat droneMass Effect combat drone, picture credit: masseffect.wikia.com

If these cute little floating drone things are taken out of the office and converted to military uses they could do pretty much all the stuff they do in sci-fi. They could have lots of local energy storage using super-caps, so they could easily carry self-organizing lightweight  lasers or electrical shock weaponry too, or carry steerable mirrors to direct beams from remote lasers, and high-definition 3D cameras and other sensing for reconnaissance. The interesting thing here is that self organisation of potentially redundant components would allow a free roaming battle drone that would be highly resistant to attack. You could shoot it for ages with laser or bullets and it would keep coming. Disruption of its fields by electrical weapons would make it collapse temporarily, but it would just get up and reassemble as soon as you stop firing. With its intelligence potentially local cloud based, you could make a small battalion of these that could only be properly killed by totally frazzling them all. They would be potentially lethal individually but almost irresistible as a team. Super-capacitors could be recharged frequently using companion drones to relay power from the rear line. A mist of spare components could make ready replacements for any that are destroyed. Self-orientation and use of free-space optics for comms make wiring and circuit boards redundant, and sub-millimeter chips 100m away would be quite hard to hit.

Well I’m scared. If you’re not, I didn’t explain it properly.