Author Topic: Better Living Through Etheric Exploits: Technology Brainstorming/Discussion  (Read 1952 times)

Offline Heir of the Void

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So, on my second pass through Areonaut's Windlass, I've been keeping a particular eye out for mentions of the nuts and bolts of Etheric Engineering, and I think I have a few ideas for new systems that could be devised using the capabilities we see, with the caveat that a lot of it requires at least an early 20th Century understanding of various physical principles, and I'm less sure of where Spire Albion stacks up on the more background science.

First, the Jet Engine. Sort of thing.

It would be intended more for airships (active lift) than areoplanes (aerodynamic lift), but it would provided a number of advantages over steam props; other than the obvious increased thrust, it would be entirely etheric in nature, removing the need for a steam turbine (which is heavy and has moving parts vulnerable to iron rot), as well as the assorted gearboxes, driveshafts, and such.

So, a jet engine works by drawing in external air via the forward intake using the compressor (that's the fan(s) at the front), which creates a higher internal air pressure, and thus elevated air density. It also raises the temperature of the air (as per Gay-Lussac's Law), which assists in fuel combustion in a conventional jet. That's undesirable here, so inducing a cooling system around the compressor would be ideal.

Then, in place of the combustion chamber, weapons-type crystals modified to continuously produce heat when activated are arranged to enormously increase the premature, and thus the pressure, of the air moving through the chamber; as in a normal jet engine, the shape of the chamber (narrow, high-pressure inlets, and a comparatively clear outflow, along with the action of the compressor) ensures that the elevated pressure forces the heated gas through the turbine powering the compressor and out of the jet nozzle, generating thrust.

The main internal material of the engine would probably be ceramic; steel isn't an option, copper and brass are too vulnerable to heat, and there is no evidence that titanium or tungsten alloys could be prepared in the volumes necessary. In any case, a thermal ceramic would be excellent for the combustion chamber, as the primary strain is thermal rather than mechanical; if possible, gunmetal would be best for the mechanical parts where ceramic is unacceptable; partially the turbine and compressor.

Based on the assumption that gauntlets and long rifles contain no power cores (simply the weapons crystal) and that the large cannons are explicitly stated to operate on the same general principal, I am fairly confidant that this drive system would impose no demand on the ship's power core crystal; in fact, a design could intentionally include an overpowered turbine driving an electrical generator; providing the airship with more power for her Web or Shroud at the cost of jet output.

The speed provided would not be on par with a jet airplane for a number of reasons; at present, not knowing the drag characteristics of a typical airship preclude commentary on top speed, and without mass values (I don't recall any, but if anyone recalls a discussion of airship weight -in absolute terms, not relative to other airships-, please let me know) acceleration estimates are impossible. I don't know if you could match the main web with only jet propulsion (endurance also becomes a problem; the web is much more mechanically simple and thus less effected by wear), but the idea is that you don't have to. Given that warship design is dominated by three constants (You guns are less powerful and accurate than they need to be, your ship is too fragile, and you need more engine power) every bit helps.

If I'm forgetting something, made a flaw in analysis, or you think I'm stupid; by all means, leave a comment and descibe the problem to improve future concepts.

Next time: Ripple Fire at the O.K. Corral

Offline Quantus

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Based on the assumption that gauntlets and long rifles contain no power cores (simply the weapons crystal) and that the large cannons are explicitly stated to operate on the same general principal, I am fairly confidant that this drive system would impose no demand on the ship's power core crystal; in fact, a design could intentionally include an overpowered turbine driving an electrical generator; providing the airship with more power for her Web or Shroud at the cost of jet output.
Minor tweak on this part:  the weapon crystals and the cannon crystals are specifically different, in that the smaller weapon crystals convert Ether to Heat directly, while the Cannons are converting Electricity to Heat, being sourced by the Core crystal.  I dont actually know of any reason while the weapon crystals couldnt be scaled up to Cannon size while still tapping the ether directly, but I think it's a conspicuous detail that they havent done so as a standard, despite the tactical advantage as you describe.  My best guess is that either the Ether energy is harder to regulate at that size/quantity, so they use electricity and the Core as a more stable power source (and stable is good when you are miles up with something designed to go Boom), or else it's a matter of crystal complexity, meaning it takes longer to grow cannon sized crystals that tap ether directly, compared to equivalent crystals that use electricity. 


In the abstract, it could work ok; you are essentially suggesting that they replace the fuel with pure heat from the crystals.  It might work with some tweeking, but what the fuel is actually providing from a functional standpoint is a large volume change, not actually the heat, so it would take far more thermal energy to achieve the same volume change of natural air that it would from combustion of a fossil fuel. 

Once they solve that issue, there is still a massive amount of engineering that would go into designing such a thing.  And not just the base design, but it takes a very high level of manufacturing precision to build these things, that would be as big of a barrier as the understanding of the physics involved.  My Thermodynamics and Fluid Mechanics professor in college was a long-time Boeing engineer, so basically every example he ever used was Jet engines.  He would go on and on about all the tiny elements of each fin that had to be painstakingly checked and tested and dimensionally perfect. 




In the category of effective yet simple, a [url-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramjet]Ramjet[/url] might be far easier to manufacture and would perform nicely (there are youtube videos of people making them in garages out of old car parts.  It's primary drawback is that it can really only be used as a second-tier thrust source.  They cannot operate much below 45 metres per second (160 km/h), and require that existing speed for them to begin generating thrust.  But a Dive might achieve that threashold.  After that, as you say they'd need to immediately start designing for low drag, as Ramjet operate best in supersonic speeds.


And because it's a cool animation for the general discussion, here is how most modern jets (Turbofans) work:

<(o)> <(o)>
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      (o o)
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Offline Heir of the Void

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A lot of this is based off of Ramjet stuff, the problem is that getting to the speeds for that to work isn't going to happen with anything like a conventional airship, and getting someone to front the capital to build something like this would be hard enough already. The idea of using a dive is interesting, though, despite the fact that it would be limited to use on smaller ships.

And as for the point of fuel providing gas volume, I'm fairly sure that's not actually accurate; otherwise, it would be a liquid-fuel externally oxidized rocket. The reason jets work is because they can use atmosphere as reaction mass, and heat it to produce thrust. If you look at the rate of fuel consumption, and thus gas production, in a jet engine compared to the total airflow, the amount of volume added is small, and if heat were secondary, then it would be preferable to shape the engine to keep the temperature down and avoid mechanical stress.

As it happens, there were a number of efforts made during the Cold War to design aircraft that used nuclear power in the place of fossil fuels, using the heat from the fission reactions to expand the air and generate thrust. The problem was never mechanical; they simply couldn't develop a system that could keep crew irradiation to a safe level without being too heavily shielded to fly and and avoided irradiating everything they flew over.

The General Electric X39 was a purely thermal nuclear jet engine that was actually built and operated successfully; it's problem was the radiation shielding weight thing.

If the concern is crystal size or energy control, we're still good. For even heating, this design probably works better with a number of small crystals in any case, and we don't need precise, coherent, highly acute discharges, we simply need output.

If the problem is the supply of raw ether, that becomes a bit more difficult, though I'd expect that a sufficiently large core crystal might encounter the same problems. We might be able to solve this one with an etheric ramscoop, but we don't have enough information about pure etheric mechanics to say if this works, or how big it would have to be. Assuming that ether supply corresponds with space-time locations, we might be able to get away with dangling collection crystals of some sort below and behind the ship (think a towed sonar array), but this introduces rather more vulnerabilities than I'd like.

And yes, the mechanical development would be daunting. That's always a problem with new systems, though remember that a airplane has to balance thrust and lift with weight; both engine weight and fuel weight. We have the lift crystals and almost weightless fuel to make those problems much less significant, and thus the early proof-of-concept models can accept sub-optimal efficiency and scale up, then throw mass at the performance issues, then make progressive advances from there.

But these are all problems that can be solved by hand; the Germans built working jet fighters in the 1940s, and fixed a lot of the Me 262's engine problems during the war, despite the escalating Allied bombing campaign and obviously without digital computers, so it can be done.

The big problem is that the Spires have been doing the same thing, in broad terms, for millennia; the Itasca was mentioned as having a five-hundred-year record of battles, meaning that the core airframe demands for warship can't have radically changed in that timeframe. Something like this probably has to start as a military project due to the resources required and the long development period to reach commercial viability, and Navies tend to be leery of rapid technical change (possibly a consequence of the large investment required in each warship), a trait common enough in present-day and historical cultures to have quite probably survived to the era of the story.

Offline kazimmoinuddin

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The sail passively gain energy from the current, so an upgrade would be making their own currents.
 The ship it self could do with an engine that manipulates the gravitational and EM fields around it. While it might not boost it speed, it might increase control and agility.

 The thing for higher speeds, can a wooden ship endure the strain. A metal ship would be difficult due to the need to cover up all iron and steel. Is it me or is metal more available than wood.

It is said iron messes with the never never due to sheer reality of it, so I wonder if it rots here due to a similar reason.
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Offline Heir of the Void

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Well, part of the uncertainly is that we know lift crystals make ships go up, and that there is a limit on height, somewhere below ten miles for almost anything, but we don't know the causes of either; is it gravity manipulation? Repulsion? Ninja conjuration?

Any of them could have side utilities, but there is a key barrier to experimentation here; unlike the thermal crystals used in the... the jet needs a snazzy name. Anyway, the lift crystals big enough to loft an airship, and to an even greater extent the power core crystals, are not simply expensive, but the supply is inelastic; no matter how much you're willing to pay for one, there might not be any on the market at any price, with the same being true of the limited number of new production 'slots'.

This means that getting crystals to experiment on, or getting a manufacturer (e.g. the Lancasters) to produce an experimental crystal that might not even do anything would be very hard, probably even more so than getting the Admiralty to fund an experimental ship; worst case, the key crystals can be re-mounted in a conventional hull. The lost growth vat time is irretrievable if the experiment fails*, and you'd need to convince the manufacturing spire that gambling on the experiment had a greater potential to benefit their spire despite the risk of failure than the sure benefit of another cruiser or merchantman.

I did notice that; they acted as if wood (and paper) was an amazingly rare material, but one you retrieve soil, you can grow wood with it indefinitely; given how dangerous the Surface is, I'm not sure where any metal is coming from.

In any case, a wooden ship can still be built very strong; the song 'Heart of Oak' actually refers to the oak heartwood that was used in the construction of the Warships of the the Royal Navy during the Age of Sail; it could take a beating. In fact, taken together with the lack of explosive shells, defeating a warship often didn't mean sinking her; a ship was usually taken out of a fight when mast and rigging damages and crew losses precluded further maneuvering or firing, not when it was sunk.

Unless you caught on fire. Then you were screwed.

AND ANOTHER THING!

Shrouds. We know they require an allocation of power from he lift crystal, but to my knowledge, we've never seen a Shroud Projector. I've got some ideas regarding the use of the ship's shrouds, though that will probably have to wait.

Offline Brightbane

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Couldn't they just make a helicopter that runs off electricity instead of fuel? Like, they have an endless source of electricity and from the looks of it it generates far more energy than a battery of the same size
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Offline Heir of the Void

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A lift crystal is better; no moving parts and probably greater efficiency.

Offline Brightbane

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A lift crystal is better; no moving parts and probably greater efficiency.
Yeah, but a lift crystal does just that. They need a propel crystal.

Which, come to think of it, wouldn't that just be an altered lift crystal? Why do they need the webs at all when they can just have a ton of lift crystals that lift in different directions?
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Offline Heir of the Void

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That's basic enough that I think they would have already done it if it were so simple. As far as I can tell, the Lift Crystals, when powered, move against the direction of the local gravity field. I have no idea if they're actually responding to gravity or something completely different, but that's the hard part of an airship; propulsion is a lot easier than suspension.

Offline Quantus

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Yeah, but a lift crystal does just that. They need a propel crystal.

Which, come to think of it, wouldn't that just be an altered lift crystal? Why do they need the webs at all when they can just have a ton of lift crystals that lift in different directions?
The lift crystals do not "manipulate" gravity as we might expect; they Invert it, specifically, meaning that it only ever applies force directly opposite to natural Gravity. That's why they can lift the bulk of an airship, but must use completely different mechanisms for lateral propulsion, or else have to rely on Dive maneuvers to convert vertical lift to horizontal speed. 

As far as the height limitation, that was stated to be a function of the Core crystal's efficiency, and implied that there is simply less ether at high altitudes or when you venture away from the normal Etheric currents. 

As far as the sails, they are more like actual sails than some kind of energy harvesting net.  Whenever the silk is carrying an elecrtic charge, the charged silk can interact with the etheric currents directly and get physically pulled on. When one gets burned off, the web yanks on the ship as one would expect.  It like those folks you see on boardwalks that have a big para-sail kite that is pulling them along of a skateboard or rollerblades. 
<(o)> <(o)>
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Offline Heir of the Void

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Re: Better Living Through Etheric Exploits: Technology Brainstorming/Discussion
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2015, 06:46:13 PM »
They would have to amplify it on themselves enormously as well, probably between two and three orders of magnitude up, unless the lift crystals weigh about as much as the rest of the ship.

If the height is a limit of efficiency, or more probably the amount of energy it can be supplied (with a high-efficiency crystal getting more out of each watt), then there's probably another operating mechanism at play, as gravity ten miles above the surface is less than half a percent weaker than surface gravity. That would point in favor of high efficiency allowing operation in thin high-altitude ether, which means a connection between the ambient ether field and the planet or atmosphere, or between the ambient ether field and the pirate imprisoned at the center of the planet.

The only concern I have with the statement about a ship's web function as a sail is that, if that were the case, ether currents would play an enormous role in Airship combat; a large portion of naval stragety in the Age of Sail was centered around gathering a superior fleet upwind of the enemy, 'gaining the weather gauge', and using it to force him to battle. The lack of mention of an 'Ether Gauge' of any importance, or discussion of currents in airship combat stragety, makes me suspect that the ether currents are either non-euclidean in nature or don't map properly onto three-dimensional space.

Offline Quantus

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Re: Better Living Through Etheric Exploits: Technology Brainstorming/Discussion
« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2015, 10:46:19 PM »
They would have to amplify it on themselves enormously as well, probably between two and three orders of magnitude up, unless the lift crystals weigh about as much as the rest of the ship.
Oh certainly, it's not limited to natural /levels/ of gravity, only vector. 
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If the height is a limit of efficiency, or more probably the amount of energy it can be supplied (with a high-efficiency crystal getting more out of each watt), then there's probably another operating mechanism at play, as gravity ten miles above the surface is less than half a percent weaker than surface gravity. That would point in favor of high efficiency allowing operation in thin high-altitude ether, which means a connection between the ambient ether field and the planet or atmosphere, or between the ambient ether field and the pirate imprisoned at the center of the planet.
I think it has to do with the efficiency of how it converts the electricity, with the operational limit Journeyman was describing being a function of how high they could go and still have enough ether present for the Core to be able to supply enough electricity to maintain an equilibrium.  The lit crystal was sized for a ship 15 time the preddy's mass, and they said the difference is how dense and complex the crystals are. 

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The only concern I have with the statement about a ship's web function as a sail is that, if that were the case, ether currents would play an enormous role in Airship combat; a large portion of naval strategy in the Age of Sail was centered around gathering a superior fleet upwind of the enemy, 'gaining the weather gauge', and using it to force him to battle. The lack of mention of an 'Ether Gauge' of any importance, or discussion of currents in airship combat strategy, makes me suspect that the ether currents are either non-euclidean in nature or don't map properly onto three-dimensional space.
OK, in this I dont disagree and have no really good answer, except to say that they specifically state that the etheric sails are distinct from wind sails in that they are not subject to the directional that wind currents do and so upwind and downwind do not apply.

The Following is not indicated in the text anywhere that I can find, however the best image I can come up with for how this works is that the web is interacting with the Core and/or Shroud, or at least on a common underlying mechanism of both.  Perhaps the Core crystal gathers the ether from the ambient "currents", siphoning off what it does to convert to electricity, but also causing the flows that spiral inward toward it to spiral on out (I picture the paths seen of air going into and out of a tornado, or perhaps this old magnet demonstration I saw as a kid). Thus the Core is causing a localized current of ether that flows OUTWARD in all directions from that central point, and the Webs are latching onto this current to move, controlling it through the twin mechanisms of reeling out additional length and varying the electric charge (which is states as proportional to the etheric drag/thrust). 

The bottom line is that TAW didnt get too deep into the mechanics of etheric travel, especially given that the main ship was out of commission for the majority of the book.  Im hoping that we will get more details in the next one, which by it's title I think will center around the Airship races, and give a better opportunity to delve into the functional characteristics of airships.
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Offline kazimmoinuddin

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Re: Better Living Through Etheric Exploits: Technology Brainstorming/Discussion
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2015, 05:56:32 AM »
I wonder why power core crystals are the only ones to increase in strength due to age/use, since all crystals are apparently vat grown. It could be possible.

 So there are two explenation for lost power cores, they either were brokers so exploded or they were lost and fell to earth. Due to them gaining in strength as they age, I wonder if a ship can detect them on the ground.
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Offline Heir of the Void

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Re: Better Living Through Etheric Exploits: Technology Brainstorming/Discussion
« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2015, 03:57:39 PM »
On to the next idurr:

Ripple fire is clearly effective, but it depends on precise timing by the gun crews and having each gun be able to strike the same point on the enemy vessel's Shroud. Furthermore, at close ranges, the spacing of the guns on the hull would impose a mechanical limit on the efficiency of the technique. 'Simple' geometry indicates that two rays, each drawn from a separate starting point to intersect with a target point on a given surface will not have the same incident angle; the greater the separation of the origin points relative to the distance to target, the greater the difference.

This becomes important when, as the number of guns fired increases, so does the depth of the hole bored in the enemy shroud; the greater the depth, the closer the incident angles must be for each shot to impact near the bottom of the penetration. An increasingly minor error could result in a shot striking the side of the hole and its effect being largely wasted.

Now, because improving the gun crews is beyond the scope of his discussion, the obvious solution is to use a better gun. In this context, better means bigger, and bigger means rotary cannon.

Or revolver cannon. Which one used depends on where the limiting factor on a gun's rate of fire appears; the cannon crystal or the barrel of weapons crystals. Grimm's mention of 'firing the cannon until their copper barrels melted' would suggest that the barrel is the limiting factor, as it is in real life. Fun fact; standard procedure for modern soldiers carrying the Squad Automatic Weapon is to carry several replacement barrels and, if engaged in a prolonged firefight of sufficient intensity, discard and replace the barrel of the weapon.

This solution is a bit different. Based on the same basic principle of Richard Jordan Gatling's original invention, in this device, an array of six cannon barrels and crystal assemblies are rotated in sequence past a single cannon crystal built into a water-cooled housing, possibly with a capacitor bank, if such a thing is both helpful and procurable, though the power demand would likely be about the same as a standard broadside volley.

In any case, this arrangement allows six (or more) shots to be fired in very quick succession, almost certainly faster than multiple gun crews operating with linted communication could manage with the requite accuracy, and each shot would be fired along an identical vector relative to the ship.

The largest problem is that the rotation mechanism, heat sinks, and active cooling system needed for a longer burst together most likely preclude mounting in a normal turret; to use a weapon big enough to be worthwhile, it would be best built directly into the prow of the vessel, similar to the Nova Cannon used by the Imperium of Man, though with a more sheltered internal mounting. The problem with this is that aiming the airship itself to target a distant enemy may be excessively difficult.

The first use that comes to mind is mounting such a gun on a medium-weight cruiser; large enough to mount a system of worthwhile size without undue difficultly, but agile enough to aim the gun with the speed and protection to prowl the battlespace and properly threaten enemy vessels. You could use it either as a flanker, striking an enemy capital ship from an unexpected angle while it trades fire with your own battleships, counting on its shroud being sufficiently stressed to allow the hunter to deal a telling blow, or as a Beta Strike, using it's mobility (superior compared to a battleship) to hang back and be able to quickly move to a critical point with enough firepower to matter.

As a final note, the comment about Revolver Cannons above would be if the cannon crystal imposes the key limit on fire rate; multiple cannon crystals would be rotated into position to fire through a single water-cooled barrel. It was investigated for use on fighter aircraft, but has fallen out of favor as barrel heating has become a more difficult than automatic mechanical reloading.

Offline kazimmoinuddin

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Re: Better Living Through Etheric Exploits: Technology Brainstorming/Discussion
« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2015, 12:45:24 AM »
Crystals can create and emitt heat and energy, another application is inverse gravity, can crystals absorb/transfer/store heat? Heat management is always useful.
k moinuddin