A helium balloon the size of Wembley Stadium and a 14-mile garden hose: How scientists plan to cool down the planet

It may sound like the crazed plan of a James Bond villain but scientists are working on a way to artificially cool the planet by reflecting sunlight away from the Earth.

In a largely theoretical field known as geo-engineering, a team of British academics is about to announce a world-first with plans to field test an artificial volcano as a solution to global warming.

The eventual plan is for a helium balloon the size of Wembley Stadium to be tethered 14 miles above the Earth by a giant hose, which will pump out tonnes of chemical particles into the stratosphere.

It is hoped that the droplets of sulphates and aerosol particles will reflect the sun’s energy back into space, preventing it from heating the earth.

The concept is based on the similar cooling effect of volcano eruptions on the atmosphere.

Before embarking on the full project known as ‘Spice’ – Stratospheric particle injection for climate engineering – the team will conduct feasibility tests with a miniature version of the technology.

At a secret location a smaller balloon will float more than half a mile above the ground pumping water into the atmosphere, so the team can study the impact of spraying particles directly into the atmosphere.

Backed by a £1.6million government grant and with the support of the Royal Society, the team hopes to follow up on the initial tests with full-scale radiation experiments on the equipment, which will operate at twice the altitude of commercial planes.

The balloon and hose method was developed after the team considered other methods by which to inject particles into the air – tall chimneys, planes and even via missiles – but the favoured system is the most cost effective.

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