Using Nanotechnology to Induce Rain—Cloud Seeding

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Simulated pentagonal ice chain on a copper surface.Cloud seeding is the induction of rain by seeding clouds with dry ice or chemicals via airplane.  While this may sound like something from science fiction or a super villain story, weather control is real, and a number of countries, including the United States use cloud seeding techniques.  Current techniques use dry ice or silver iodide since they both share the hexagonal microstructures inherent in snow.  The theory is that clouds seeded with hexagonal microparticles will produce rain or snow as the particles act as nucleating agents.  Super cooled water near the top of the cumulus cloud adheres to the microparticle, making it large enough to fall to the earth. 

While this conventional method of cloud seeding has been shown to definitively change the shape and behavior of clouds, its ability to induce rain is debated.  Furthermore, the structure of ice is not well understood at the nanoscale.  Recent research from scientists at the London center for Nanotechnology has proven that ice at the nanoscale has a crystalline structure that is pentagonal rather than hexagonal, opening the door for new, and potentially more effective chemicals for cloud seeding.  In the future, nanoparticles of different, and less ecologically toxic nature than silver iodide, may be used to exploit the hydrogen bonding properties at bond interfaces.

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Nanotechnology enhancements in cloud seeding will improve resource efficiency, increase rainfall in arid climates and reduce the environmental impacts of current cloud seeding technologies.[1]

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  1. Carrasco J, Michaelides A, Forster M, Haq S, Raval R, Hodgson A. A one-dimensional ice structure built from pentagons. Nature Materials. 2009 ;8(5):427 - 431.

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This advancement in the understanding of ice at the Nanoscale has the potential to improve the human condition and environmental quality by enabling the environmentally friendly engineering of climate on a regional scale.[1]

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  1. Quick D. Nanotechnology and Rainmaking. [Internet]. Submitted . Available from: http://www.gizmag.com/cloud-seeding-using-hexagons/11207/

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The environmental and ecological risks are dependent on the future nanoparticles used in cloud seeding. Current silver iodide microparticles used in cloud seeding have raised concerns over its toxicity in different environments; particularly aquatic environments. Additional risks lie in the potential changes in the human condition by equity issues over future cloud seeding technology. How future cloud seeding technology will impact the environment by creating changes in the rain cycle. Whether or not the institutional capacity exists to manage climate engineering may pose a future risk should the technology take hold.[1]

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  1. Quick D. Nanotechnology and Rainmaking. [Internet]. Submitted . Available from: http://www.gizmag.com/cloud-seeding-using-hexagons/11207/

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