Fluorocarbons have three very important properties that may make them very important in future terraforming.

  • They are the most potent greenhouse gases, which allows to warm up cold planets such as Mars.

  • They are very heavy gases so that even a small body can keep them from escaping

  • In liquid phase they can dissolve a lot of oxygen, making it possible to create a liquid breathable "atmosphere" in fluorocarbon lakes, even if not planet-wide, at least in some craters and depressions (which would require much less oxygen than for the whole planet's atmosphere).

  • They are chemically inert and not toxic.

So a typical procedure for space terraforming would be most likely simply blindly pumping as much perfluorocarbons as possible onto a small, distant from the Sun planetoid.

But how much perfluorocarbons can a space worthy civilization produce? Are the resources for them limited? Will it become something like currency in the future?


closed as primarily opinion-based by JDługosz, MichaelK, Durakken, Separatrix, John Dallman Sep 24 '16 at 16:49

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Most of this question is hard to answer because you're asking how much a society can produce when that amount is rate-limited by the size of the society. However, the last question can be answered with a question: what percentage of the total output of your space faring society is dedicated to the teraforming of new planets? Hopefully it's a very small percentage. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Sep 24 '16 at 0:30
  • $\begingroup$ no way it is how transforming have be done. you may consider to add fantasy tag or magic to your question. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Sep 24 '16 at 0:41
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg Why? Is it difficult to make fluorocarbon lakes? Also terraforming Mars by building carbon tetrafluoride plants is discussed in scientific articles for a long time already. It is 6500 times more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. $\endgroup$ – Anixx Sep 24 '16 at 0:46
  • $\begingroup$ Actually you might improve question by providing some link(s) to such proposition(I heard also there are plans to use nuclear bombs Elon said it to me(from silver screen), when we(I) quench my thirst with vodka) , or elsehow specify how much Fluorocarbons you need per planet. They definitely not sooo much inert to withstand gamma ray ionization, solar wind. Not all of them are totally biologically inert. It just sounds to me, you wish to cover planet with liquid PFC. multiply to percent periodictable.com/Properties/A/UniverseAbundance.html theoretical limit for production. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Sep 24 '16 at 1:00
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg CF4 actually is the most stable gas in the atmosphere, has the largest atmospheric lifetime: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas#Global_warming_potential . These articles discuss using perfluorocarbons in terraforming Mars: ngm.nationalgeographic.com/big-idea/07/mars-pg2 redcolony.com/art.php?id=0101050#null $\endgroup$ – Anixx Sep 24 '16 at 1:06

Since this is a space-worthy civilization, it obviously can produce Von Neumann machines to produce the perfluorocarbons. This, in turn, means that availability of the the material is the limiting factor. This page, for instance, lists the abundance of carbon and fluorine in the earth's crust as 0.18% and 0.054% respectively. Assuming similar abundances are the norm, and a willingness to strip-mine a planet to a depth of 1 km, an earth-like planet should produce on the order of $10^{15}$ kilograms of flourine, and perhaps 3 times as much carbon. Note that this is enough fluorine to add CF4 to the atmosphere at a rate of about 0.25 kg/$m^3$ at sea level, or about 140,000 ppm for an otherwise earthlike planet.

Alternatively, this paper provides a Martian abundance of 32 ppm. Applying the same strip-mining figure to Mars produces an estimate of only $14 \times 10^{12}$ kg of fluorine.

So, how much do you want? We can get it for you wholesale.

And, on a different note, you should be aware that one of the big no-nos in creating fictional monetary systems is using something useful as your currency base. One of the prime requirements for money is that it shall be otherwise useless. If not, it sooner or later gets used up, and is no longer available for use as money. Gold is the classic example.

  • $\begingroup$ answer it actually illustrates who it is useless to terraform in such way. Mirror in Lagrange point is more efficient energy wise. About money it is controversial and removing will make answer better. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Sep 24 '16 at 15:20

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