Municipal Feedstock Utilities

One of the major challenges of widespread nanofacture is keeping a consistent flow of feedstock to the nanofab units and protecting the local environment from becoming depleted. To combat this, many societies developed Municipal Feedstock Utilities that keep a constant flow of refined feedstock accessible to the public and industry on demand. Similar to municipal water works or ancient gas systems, the flow of feedstock solution is pumped from central holding reservoirs and towers through pipes and into a reclamation system that then cycles back to a refinery that breaks down the "waste" feedstock and reintegrates it back into it's reservoirs. These pipes are commonly subterranean or underwater in nature or coupled with other utility lines. Reservoirs are commonly built in sealed or underground lakes and pools to prevent contamination of the solution. In megastructures or tall buildings these reservoirs are often placed in the top floors of the building to assist with pressures and regulating speed of distribution.

The central benefit of this system is that it ensures all connected nanofabs have access to the full spectrum of elements allowed by law, while preventing consumption of the local materials or property. Often this removes the need for citizens to gather or purchase feedstock on a separate basis, offering access for nominal exchange or fees. Some Feedstock Utilities offer a credit system for recycling and preventing material loss.

The typical system is designed to have a centrally located refinery and processing plant. From here, pipes are constructed that lead to reservoirs and tanks placed for optimum levels of distribution in the supplied municipality. These tanks are then routed through subterranean pipes to all customers, buildings and locations that require feedstock. After flowing through the nanofab suite, the feedstock effluent pipes then flow back to holding pools and then into the refinery where processing begins for re-integration into the reservoirs. The solution is magnetic in nature, and can be pushed smoothly by linear accelerator pumps. Even the nanofabs are designed to not stop the flow or divert it completely but rather filter off any elements required by nanofabrication at time of operation. This constant motion prevents any chance of settling happening outside of designed traps and pools.

Feedstock Utilities can be of very small local design like a single building, or massive megastructures weaving their way through an entire J Brain! How the system is fed varies greatly, but usually breaks down into three formats: Local, System or Wormhole.

A local style Utility relies totally on resources mined from the stellar object it is built on. Mines transport the base material from parts of the planet or asteroid to the refinery. There the raw material is broken down, filtered out, or converted to essential matter and stored in large hoppers used to supplement the reservoirs at a rate that keeps the feedstock solution at a constant "richness" and proportion.

A System style supplied Municipal Feedstock Utility usually gains its raw materials from off-world or far outside of the municipality's orbit. However, the matter is still in orbit around the local star or Oort Cloud. These resource nodes are mined, and usually refined at the mining site. Raw materials are then shipped back to the Utility via a magnetic accelerator or coil system. The loose material appears like a stream a few millimeters to a few meters in width depending on the demand. These streams are then ducted through "targeting pump satellites" to an Orbital Receiving Facility usually found in a stationary orbit or attached to an orbital station. The ORF prioritizes feedstock for where it needs to go and organizes delivery via a variety of systems and networks.

Wormhole Style Utilities are very similar to system fed utilities, but include small (5cm to 5m) wormholes to allow material being broken down in another system to be shipped via beamrider or linear accelerator to the purchasing utility. Once the material exits the wormhole link, it is then treated and moved about like a normal system fed utility. Often these wormhole stations are located near or at the solar "poles" of a system so orbiting mines can always see them and control the streams more effectively.

Once a society has access to technology that can manufacture elements cheaply and in bulk quantities, the supply systems quickly become local in nature and only deal with occasional loads of off site resources when they run low on total available matter to continue growth.

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Development Notes
Text by Michael Boncher

Initially published on 05 September 2005.