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On Venus the surface is around 467 degrees Celsius. At the top of the atmosphere it is much cooler, and at around 60 km above the surface the temperature is around 40 to 50 degrees Celsius. This is a large difference, and I think it could be used to generate power. Could one build a structure to harvest energy from this temperature difference?

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, of course. And not only on Venus, on Earth too; Earth's atmosphere exhibits a similar pattern of temperatures decreasing with altitude. The question is not whether it can be built, the question is whether it is worthwhile. And the answer depends on the economic constraints; no answer is possible without knowing why would anybody consider such a possibility. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Mar 17 '20 at 22:31
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    $\begingroup$ AlexP Have you seen this vortexengine.ca/index.shtml This is for use on earth. Even if it works here I'm not sure how to adapt it to Venus. $\endgroup$
    – Jim Baerg
    Mar 18 '20 at 4:41
  • $\begingroup$ Possible, absolutely. But while the temperature difference is very good, the temperature gradient sucks greatly. You have to work with a temperature gradient of less than 0.00695 degrees C per meter. That is barely detectable. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Apr 9 at 4:56
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100% YES It s called an updraft tower.

You can actually even do that on earth in the Deserts (solar updraft towers).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_updraft_tower

On Venus you wouldn't even need the "solar" part. Just build a tall updraft tower.

The question is would it make sense? By the time we want to colonize Venus, we would probably have shifted to a hydrogen economy (cold fusion based) so it would probably by orders of magnitude cheaper to just bring your cold fusion generation with you instead of building updraft towers on Venus given that a few kg of Helium3 would be enough to power a colony for centuries.

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    $\begingroup$ ‘Cold fusion’ is not a thing unless you’re writing very soft sci-fi. Fusion is, but it’s decidedly hot, and high pressure, and hard to do. The bigger question would be how you make an updraft tower of sufficient size that can deal with the ungodly hellscape that is the Venusian atmosphere. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Mar 18 '20 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ Also, where would you mine the unobtanium needed to build an updraft tower that's a) tall enough to have a reasonable temperature gradient; and b) able to withstand Venusian temperatures? $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Apr 9 at 17:05
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Yes you can.

As a simple example, you could create a giant tube and put a Fan in it attached to a generator. As the hot air moves upwards (hot air is less dense and will go up) it moves the fan which spins and generates power. A more advance version would be similar to our coal plants which use the coal to heat water into steam, then that pushes through a giant set of fans which form a generator. The water is then cooled by the atmosphere and reused.

You can try this in real life. Get a tube, get a pinwheel and place it over the top opening. Place a candle under the bottom opening. Over time, you should see the pinwheel spin slowly as the hot air pushes past it (If you don't accidentally set it on fire that is).

As @AlexP mentions, the real question is if its worthwhile....

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  • $\begingroup$ well is it worthwile? $\endgroup$ Mar 18 '20 at 0:22
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    $\begingroup$ @meaninglessname That would be an entirely different question. As a general response, if you as the creator want it, then its possible and feasible. Iron man has a portable and essentially infinite source of energy in his chest. It doesn't really matter that it isn't possible or feasible. If you however want to be super realistic, you might as well enroll back in Uni and get that degree in Materials Science, Electrical and chemical engineering so you can determine if its feasible. $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Mar 18 '20 at 2:56
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You might want to instead use the wind speed gradient. If you have a balloon habitat about 50 km up where the temperature is comfortable your habitat will be moving with the wind at a few 100 km/hr (relative to the ground), while the atmosphere lower down will be moving much slower. Lower a wind powered electric generator on a cable to where the relative wind is at least some 10's of km/hr & use that for powering your habitat. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Venus

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