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Simply Scientific: Fighting melting ice sheets with submarines

by Jad Abukasm September 3, 2019
Simply Scientific: Fighting melting ice sheets with submarines

Last year, NASA recorded record low Arctic ice sheet surface area, raising the alarm on climate change – and propelled some to develop prototypes to counter the consequences.

Faris Rajak Kotahatuhaha, an Indonesian architect and designer, decided to tackle the issue of melting ice sheets on both the Earth’s poles by leading a project aiming to build an ice-making submarine. The goal: refreeze the poles.

First, the submersible machine sinks underwater, filling up its hexagonal-shaped tank with seawater. Next, the onboard desalination system expels all the salt from the water before freezing it using controlled ambient temperature, thus creating an ice sheet roughly the size of a large classroom. Letting go of the newly born iceberg, the submarine sinks back into the water and repeats the process over and over again.

According to Kotahatuhaha, the ice sheets will act as sun reflectors, and therefore, prevent the absorption of heat by the oceans.

However, the prototype quickly came under criticism by those saying that the energy used by the submarine outweighs the benefits of recreating an ice sheet. Furthermore, Thomas L. Mote, researcher and professor of geography at the University of Georgia, believes that the project will not have much impact on climate change.

“One of the biggest concerns about sea ice is the decline of thick, multi-year ice that persists through the summer,” said Mote in an interview with Forbes. The submarine would only create six-meter-thick icebergs that would take about a month to create.

Another issue is that the type of energy powering the submarine is still uncertain, although Kotahatuhaha’s assures his prototype will be powered by renewable energy to match his objective of sustainability.

Kotahatuhaha’s prototype won second place in a recent design competition held by the Association of Siamese Architects, giving hope for potential solutions to some of the biggest issues of our era.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

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