UPDATE - The World in 50 Years - E3 - Global Community
Episode III “The Global Community” Episode 3 looks at geopolitical developments 50 years from now. Climate concerns, energy issues, peace and the race for weapons technology will dominate international headlines. We’ll take a scientific look at these topics and add a close-up examine the future of nanotechnology and solar energy, all of which will provide the basis of the dramatic scenes. Two researchers just starting out on their career paths (the protagonists) are both working together in a cramped space station to revolutionize the efficiency of solar cells. Their laboratory is reachable from Earth via a sort of “space elevator”. The elevator’s cables receive their enormous strength and necessary lightness from tiny carbon, tube-like nano-particles. It may sound like science fiction, but researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory are already busy at work on it. The technical challenges of the project were laid out during a large conference in 1999, and it was deemed to be realizable. Since then physicists have been working intensely on this new material. The so-called “nano tubes” are intended to make the elevator cable 1000 times stronger than steel. Specialists in space travel have already produced working models and 3-D simulations to test the behavior of this type of capsule in space. An accident of sorts in their laboratory leads the two researchers to the discovery of a substance, which turns out to be unusually effective in turning sunlight into electricity. At the same time, a serious conflict ignites between China and the USA in the face of dwindling energy reserves. Both powers are placing dibs on a sizable load of oil from Central Asia, which is at sea on a tanker. While these two giants set their military machinery in motion, the two scientists, one Chinese and one American and both of them friends, place their own safety at risk to crack the chemical code of their coincidental discovery. They are aware that this formula could lead the way out of the energy crisis and prevent the world war brewing below them. The dramatic sequences are built upon very promising research inroads into solar technology. Since the silicon panels that have been used up until now are too expensive to provide an effective energy supply, scientists have been working on a new, revolutionary method. A fluid made of nano-particles could provide the key. This fluid costs only a fraction of what the silicon cells cost and could be sprayed onto any surface. But at the present, it is still not very productive. Only 15 percent of the sunlight striking such coated surfaces is transformed into usable energy. According to scientific and economic predictions, the Earth’s final oil reserves will be nearly exhausted in the year 2057, and must by then be replaced by alternative energy sources. On a political level, leading experts predict that both China and the USA will gain more might. Episode III puts these variables up for debate while setting them in ecological and demographic projections for the mid 21st century.