I’m designing an alien world, which functions as a nature preserve for some extremely powerful aliens. I haven’t worked out the specific size, distance from the sun etc. yet, but I have already determined that I want an extreme amount of diversity of life. This is made possible by humongous towers which project a forcefield between them, and which keeps the drastically different atmospheres and water bodies separate.

However, I’m not sure about the strength needed. There’s no need to answer about the plausibility of it, but I do want to know the strength necessary. Here are some things that you can assume:

  • The radius of the planet is 1.8x that of earth.

  • The gravity is that of earth

  • The air pressure can vary between 0.9x and 2.4x that of earth

  • It should be capable of separating lakes and the atmosphere (no need to worry about water)

  • If there are any other things you need to know, assume Earthlike conditions.

  • Oh, and the atmospherical composition always has at least 21% to as much as 40% oxygen, with the remainder being nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water, and other stuff. But you can assume the earth’s composition if you want, since that’ll also exist.

  • I’ve read in this article that clouds can form at a bit above 6km above sea level, so the barrier will be 8km high.

  • The length of the barrier (the distance between towers) is 1700km.

  • The thickness of the barrier is half a meter.

I think that the difference in airpressure will seriously complicate it, since air flows from dense to less dense places (I think), so we’ll place the climates so that the difference in airpressure between them will be no more than 13% at a time.

  • The forcefield has no friction.

  • Power is not a problem.

  • Light can travel through it, although any matter can’t.

So I’ll reiterate the question: What is the minimum strength that my forcefield needs to have to keep various atmospheres with a difference of 13% in total pressure?

I calculated that the surface area of the atmospheres is 3.57e12 meters. Not kilometers, meters. I did this by making a polygon the size of France and scaling it to an area corresponding to a radius of 1.8x the size of earth.

This is my first question on this forum, so if this doesn’t follow guidelines (which I think it does) or needs clarification, please say so. I’ll edit it if necessary.

I am aware that the gravity will affect the atmosphere, but I don’t know how to calculate the density in that case, so let’s go earthlike for now.

Edit: I’ve just found out that atmospherical pressure relies on the amount of gas, not only size. No idea how to use this info other than raising the height to 17km. That should cover it, right?

Edit 2: As pointed out in the comments, I need to clarify the parameters and the type of forcefield. You can treat it as a solid wall, and the strength I’m talking about is compressive strength. Force in Newtons. Thanks to AlexP and Jiminy Cricket for pointing this out.

  • $\begingroup$ What units are you using to measure forcefield strength? Ergs? $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jun 4, 2022 at 16:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What is the "strength" of a "forcefield"? To make things a little bit easier, consider that instead of a "forcefield", whatever that is supposed to be in your mind, the barriers consist of some sort of thin but very strong walls. In this case, what would be the equivalent of the undefined "strength"? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 4, 2022 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ There's a remarkable vid of a chicken egg being taken to nearly 300 bar, (eggs have an air-space in). What's remarkable is that nothing happens, the egg is fine. But you are more referring to something that's undefined, orthogonal pressure is one thing, but compressive strength of the shell is what saves the egg. How do you define the parameters of the forcefield's properties in order for us to quantify them? $\endgroup$ Jun 4, 2022 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ It seems my question needs some clarifying. I thought that I would need to leave the kind of forcefield up to the answer, but I’ll address these issues. Thank you. $\endgroup$
    – Nylyx
    Jun 4, 2022 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ I’ll edit it tomorrow $\endgroup$
    – Nylyx
    Jun 4, 2022 at 21:09

1 Answer 1


Force fields are pretty much fictional constructs, so you have quite a bit of latitude as to how you want to make them work, but it looks like you want to have a science-based answer. So, you can try to do some simple calculations, but probably need to make some assumptions.

  1. What is the strength of the force field? That could mean different things to different people? For this I choose to it to be difference in pressure the force field can withstand. But you could choose some other way of thinking about it like how much energy it takes to move an object from one side of the force field to the other.

  2. What is the thickness of the force field? That is up to you, and whatever imaginary technology you want to have. For the assumptions I am choosing, I think it would be kind of neat for it be thick and perhaps lightly glowing some so people could see it. I think having some thickness could be useful since the harder something compresses it the more it might push back. But it is up to you to have as thin as a soap bubble or since your idea has a very large scale you could have it be kilometers thick.

  3. How tall is the force field? is it open or closed at the top? If we assume the atmosphere is a fluid, if we have the top open then there could be spillover from the high-pressure side of the barrier to the other. If it is very tall then eventually the rate at which it would spill over would decrease. If it is closed or dome like then that might prevent the spillover problem, but then you might want to have some way of controlling the weather inside the dome. If you want to keep the top open, then you could and some function to your force field and have pump some atmosphere from one side to the other. All of that can be up to you.

To plug into some numbers, atmospheric pressure is about 14.7 pounds per square inch at sea level. If you want to have a 13% difference in pressure you would have a force of about 1.1 pounds for every square inch. This would add up very quickly, for every square foot (144 square inches) you would have almost 160 pounds of force. So if you have something like an airlock to go from one side to another, unless you equalize the pressure it will be very hard to open or close doors etc.

Atmospheric Pressure as a function of height in millibar is shown below. (1 atmosphere or 14.7 psi is about 1011 millibar) atmosphere as function of height

One example of a real force field (or at least proposed) are plasma valves or plasma window In this technology a plasma is used to separate atmosphere on one side and have a vacuum on the other. It has only been demonstrated for very small areas, but apparently uses about 20kW per square inch of window.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer. So, if it has to withstand 160 pounds of force, does it need to have good compressive strength, or some other type? If I calculate the surface of the forcefield using my parameters (height, width, length) and your parameters (20kw per square inch, 160 pounds of force per square foot, I’ll get 11158.352382 square miles. If I multiply that by 20kW per square inch, I get a bit less than 9e14kW of power needed to sustain the barrier, or about 900 petawatts. However, is this a one time thing, to erect the barrier, or does it need this amount of energy continually? $\endgroup$
    – Nylyx
    Jun 5, 2022 at 9:20
  • $\begingroup$ It is kind of up to you, and the kind of tech you choose to imagine. Petawatts is so much energy you would need to come up with some kind of imaginary power supply. Nuclear power plants are usually around a GW. For your story, rather than getting hung up on the exact details it might be better to assume the kind of filed you want, and use the effects that result. For example it costs energy to set up, but then there is a hole in it and someone has to figure out how to plug the hole and needs to find the energy to be able to do that, barreling the wind that is going through the hole etc. $\endgroup$
    – UVphoton
    Jun 5, 2022 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks a lot man. Really appreciate the help, and I guess I’ll not get to hung up upon the details lol. Answer accepted. $\endgroup$
    – Nylyx
    Jun 5, 2022 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Nylyx Thanks, I think you have an interesting world concept! $\endgroup$
    – UVphoton
    Jun 5, 2022 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Nylyx Note that the pressure drops with altitude, it can be weaker farther up. And whether the field requires a continued input of energy to maintain is a matter of how you design it. If you were standing there pushing you would obviously have to keep pushing, but if it was an unobtainium wall there there's no energy input required. (Unobtainium because no real material is strong enough.) $\endgroup$ Jun 6, 2022 at 0:16

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