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Thread: Fictional: Wood in space.

  1. #1 Fictional: Wood in space. 
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    Say it were possible to grow a massive wooden hull, cylindrical, hollow on the inside. What might be the characteristics of such a vessel?

    After having it's outer layer scorched, might the carbon provide an effective heat-shield? Keep fire out and heat in? Absorb radiation? Would it be brittle or resilient? Etc, etc...


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    As a construction material, wood is rather heavy for a required strength. It has irregularities and weaknesses, which requires you to make it even more heavy. It also absorbs water and is porous, but I guess with the right treatment this can be helped.
    Besides being heavy, it would be huge.

    It is anisotropic, which means it is weaker in some directions and stronger in others. The can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the situation.

    Assuming you'd also want to use it as isolation material: it's a reasonable thermic isolator, but not that good and it is a very heavy isolation material. It also can't withstand high temperatures, so it would start burning away in the atmosphere rather quickly. If you make it thick enough, I guess you might be able to survive.

    In short: it might, hypothetically, be possible, but it would be one use and extremely expensive to launch (notice my use of the word 'heavy').

    and remember: after all the wood has burned away, you still need enough wood for structural integrity...


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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    The Chinese use oak panels for the heatshields of their SKW sattelites,
    http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclo...rotection.html

    (There is an interesting SF story by Larry Niven about 100 kilometre long trees in a gas torus surrounding a neutron star - The Integral Trees. I also recall another SF story in which trees have evolved which launch themselves into orbit to distribute seed pods that can drift through space for millions of years before reaching another hospitable planet.)
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    Moderator Moderator Janus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt
    I also recall another SF story in which trees have evolved which launch themselves into orbit to distribute seed pods that can drift through space for millions of years before reaching another hospitable planet.)
    Your thinking of Stage Trees. They didn't evolve, they were genetically engineered by the Tnuctipun.
    "Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feelings for the strength of their argument.
    The heated mind resents the chill touch & relentless scrutiny of logic"-W.E. Gladstone


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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bender
    ...
    Assuming you'd also want to use it as isolation material: it's a reasonable thermic isolator, but not that good and it is a very heavy isolation material. It also can't withstand high temperatures, so it would start burning away in the atmosphere rather quickly. If you make it thick enough, I guess you might be able to survive.

    In short: it might, hypothetically, be possible, but it would be one use and extremely expensive to launch (notice my use of the word 'heavy').

    and remember: after all the wood has burned away, you still need enough wood for structural integrity...
    While you are correct that wood is a rather heavy insulator in general, cork, a wood product, is one of the most efficient ablative insulators available. Cork is a common external insulator for rockets.

    Once upon a time, in a land far away, I was asked by managment to devise a spray-on insulator to replace cork and the external insulator for a rocket. The incentive was not to improve performance, which is nearly impossible given just how good sheet cork is, but to reduce the cost of insulation. I had a cost target, a delta cost from cork installation. But it did not take the manufacturing people very long to figure out to apply cork efficiently, and after their imporvements I could not have met the target if the spray-on material were obtaiined and applied for free. I canceled the project. That rocket still uses cork, as do many rockets.
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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Janus
    Your thinking of Stage Trees. They didn't evolve, they were genetically engineered by the Tnuctipun.
    Thank you. It is several years since I read the story and I had only a dim recollection. A quick google search reminds me they are another Niven invention.
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket
    While you are correct that wood is a rather heavy insulator in general, cork, a wood product, is one of the most efficient ablative insulators available. Cork is a common external insulator for rockets.

    Once upon a time, in a land far away, I was asked by managment to devise a spray-on insulator to replace cork and the external insulator for a rocket. The incentive was not to improve performance, which is nearly impossible given just how good sheet cork is, but to reduce the cost of insulation. I had a cost target, a delta cost from cork installation. But it did not take the manufacturing people very long to figure out to apply cork efficiently, and after their imporvements I could not have met the target if the spray-on material were obtaiined and applied for free. I canceled the project. That rocket still uses cork, as do many rockets.
    I didn't really think about cork. Thanks for that info, I didn't know it was used in rockets.
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