A lighter-than-air megastructure is tethered to Earth.
Inspiration from Nature
Coralline alga (Calliarthon Thalli) is made up of porous material and its structure has articulations that keep the macro-alga upright and flexible.
Two structural challenges increase dramatically with an increase in the height of a tall building.
1. Distribution of load to the ground. A building needs to taper down as it goes up in order to remain planted firmly.
2. Flexibility. The building should be flexible enough to withstand the high magnitude of lateral forces which cause building sway.
Design concepts that were once considered theoretical like F. L. Wright’s Mile-High Skyscraper, are being materialized now as our new conceptual limits go beyond Earth’s atmosphere. The edge where the atmosphere meets space is only a man-made construct. So how can we design an ultimate tall building?
A set of forces similar to those acting on high-rise are found in the deep sea. Lateral movement of currents exerts tremendous pressure on a coralline macro-alga (Calliarthon Thalli). Its structure has the following two important qualities:
1. It has calcified fronds which provide a constant buoyancy. This internally embedded, permanent upward force keeps the fronds vertical and upward.
2. Its only flexible parts are the joints between its segments. These joints (genicula) provide all the tensile strength it needs to sustain lateral forces.
After studying a number of case studies and comparing the construction technology of the macro-alga with high-rise typology, it becomes evident that our structural requisites for tall building (tapering and flexibility) become obsolete. A new design paradigm is required.
The building comprises of a string of vertical capsules tethered to Earth at one end- the skin of the capsules is filled with lighter-than-air gas.
The new structural system follows two principles:
A. It is designed for an upward force (1) instead of downward gravity. Helium structures (14) and space-grade inflatable architecture (16) give valuable insight into that account.
B. The structural system of the proposed space scrapper has a discrete mode of flexibility (7). That is, its compression (29,32) and tension-based (38-41) structural components are separate from each other, unlike in our conventional system of construction where these two elements intertwine and reinforce each other. Lateral movements are tolerated only at the intermediary layer (9) between two habitat segments.
The following are some useful resources from the design process of this nature gadget.
Row1Column1: A Closeup of Coralline Macro-algae
Row1Column2: Viscoelastic Joints of Coralline Macro-Algae
Row1Column3: Size, Strength, and Allometry of Joints of Coralline Macro-algae
Row1Column4: Bending of Coralline Macro-algae
Row2Column1: Tube Structures
Row2Column2: Comparison of Tallest Buildings of the World
Row2Column3: Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM)
Row2Column4: A Conceptual Image of the NASA Transhab
Row3Column1: Inflatable Modular Space Habitat
Row3Column2: Concept of a Spacescraper Hung from an asteroid
Row3Column3: Space Elevator
Row3Column4: Analysis of (Conceptual) 20-Mile Long Spacescraper
Row4Column1: Inflatable Kevlar Tube Concept
Row4Column2: Helium Balloon Tower Concept
Row4Column3: An Example of Biotensegrity
Row4Column4: Filamentosa- An Ultra-Lightweight Skyscraper
Created by Umair Zia