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Some of us might soon be living on artificial floating mega islands

It is one thing to come up with a wacky idea for transforming our cities or constructing the world’s greatest supervillain evil lair; another to have the expertise and inclination to actually research and build one for real. A new research project coming out of the Netherlands quite handily ticks both boxes. Developed by researchers at the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN), their idea is to develop giant artificial islands like today’s floating docks — only on a much, much bigger scale. Like, several miles wide bigger.

And they may just pull it off, too.

“With the world’s increasing population there is not necessarily enough space in the cities, or close to the coast where a lot of people live and work,” Olaf Waals, project manager and the concept developer, told Digital Trends. “These are also areas that are susceptible to flooding with rising sea levels. We thought it was an interesting idea to look at the technical feasibility of building floating mega islands. There are lots of futuristic concepts out there for floating harbors, farms, or cities. We wanted to look at how realistic a proposition this actually is, and come up with a workable concept.”

MARIN Mega Island concept in extreme waves (15 m)

Waals’ idea involves modular giant triangles which lock together to form sizeable land masses, up to 3.1 miles in width. At least in theory, it is a pretty nifty idea. Given that 70 percent of our planet is covered by water, floating mega islands offer a whole lot more space to play with. They could be used for housing and recreation, or for the generation and storage of sustainable energy technologies like offshore wind farms, tidal energy, and floating solar panels, or for floating farms for breeding fish and seaweed.

Right now, the MARIN team is busy running computer simulations and testing a physical scale model to try and better understand the environmental conditions such a mega island would have to contend with. These potential challenges involve working out how to develop structures that are strong and safe enough to withstand winds and currents; how best to connect them together and to the seabed; and the environmental impact a water-bound floating community would have on its surroundings.

With a consortium of around 20 companies and research institutes now attached, work on the project is set to continue for the next three years. And after that? Our childhood dream of a real-life Waterworld hopefully becomes a reality.

Is it too early to start an online petition to get Kevin Costner appointed as mayor of the first floating mega city? We think not!

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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