Scientists have been trying for many years to find a way of fertilising the world's arid deserts.
Scientists have been trying for many years to find a way of fertilising the world's arid deserts. But it's a British architect who may have found a solution to the problem - a plastic cloud.
SYNOPSIS: At first sight, the cloud looks like a sheet of plastic in the Kuwaiti desert. But as the sun beats down the cloud gradually inflates. Inside the outer transparent layers of plastic are black sheets which absorb the sun's rays and in turn, heat the air inside. The play of light and reflection create a vision of perfect natural architecture as the slender cloud gradually rises from the ground. Lines are attached to the inflated plastic so that its height can be varied and its shadow can be used to keep a wide area cool in the desert's blistering heat.
The architect, Graham Stevens, built the 80 feet (about 24 metres) long cloud to demonstrate the possibilities of solar energy. It is just one of his attempts to make use of alternative forms of energy. Fuels such as coal, oil and gas, on which most people are dependent, are simply fossilised plants or plankton. Those resources are limited and will eventually run out. Scientists have said that a greater emphasis must be placed on nuclear energy but there are certain inherent problems with that. One is the large amounts of highly contaminated waste that it produces. So many scientists are now trying to harness other natural resources, like the sun and wind and make use of their energy.
Man has been trying for many years to control rainfall and Mr. Stevens believes that a larger version of his cloud could be used to produce water for irrigation. He has shown that by laying the sheet on the ground overnight, water inside it is frozen because of the sharp cooling effect produced by the high rate of evaporation in the chilly, dry night air. Alternatively, the condensation can help crops to flourish that would never grow in the desert. A similar principle is already in wide use around the world - the plastic greenhouse. Mr. Stevens says that his plastic cloud is simply meant to be a symbol of what can be done with what he calls "atmospheric energy". Certainly, if his claims are true, the plastic cloud has a promising future.