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#1 2003-06-18 18:29:06

Lone--Wolfe
Member
From: Canada
Registered: 2003-06-16
Posts: 20

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid8]When we first land, we can live off other forms, but after colonization gets under way, we can build a methane farm. Feces from any lifeform, when heated to a near temperatur of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, gives off methane gas. This can be transported to a digester. Details are found in this small article:

Roger Decker, a rancher has recently been using biomass to generate power. A methane digester on his farm heats manure to 100 degrees F. This produces methane, which powers the turbine. The unit generates enough electricity for Decker's farm and 50 homes. Decker's project eliminates carbon and methane emissions, both of which contribute to global warming.

Do you think this is a possible alternative of power generation, and after all, it's an efficient use of waste, no?[/color:post_uid8]

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#2 2003-06-18 22:54:03

pootechie
Member
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2003-06-18
Posts: 15

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid14]Definitely!

I'm involved in an extensive research project at Washington State University dealing with this very technology.  Though the general technique has been around for more than a hundred years, recent engineering has been advancing efficiency and utility by leaps and bounds.

Here on Earth, the method is more useful for pollution-control than energy generation, though that is due more to the competitive price of fossil fuels rather than any limitation of its own. 

Yet it is ideally suited for integration into controlled ecological life support systems.... here's what I've been considering as of late:

The essential unit transforms human solid waste into biogas (70% methane, 30% Carbon Dioxide) and a slurry of waste water, undigestible organic material(cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, etc.), and inorganic particles/solutes (minerals, etc.).  This process requires no oxygen or  supplementary heat (35 C is more than sufficient) and removes at least up to 90% of the polluting capacity of the raw sewage.

The large quantity of methane produced, albeit of a smaller volume than what could be produced from the Martian atmosphere via hydrogen feed-stock, can well supplement the in situ propellant generation techniques that are the focal point of the Mars Direct and Semi Direct plans.

With the nutrient rich waste water and CO2 (added to an amount obtained from the Martian atmosphere), appropriate-spectrum light is all that is needed for a greenhouse system which recycles both water and carbon.

What I have described above is certainly not the most efficient process imaginable, but with a bit of fancy biochemical footwork, I'm confident it could be made quite competitive, as far as CELSS go.

Again, I'm just a student/intern, so let me know what you folks think![/color:post_uid14]


"For an engineer, innovation is not an option, it is a necessity"

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#3 2003-06-19 07:15:55

Palomar
Member
From: USA
Registered: 2002-05-30
Posts: 9,734

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid5]Roger Decker, a rancher has recently been using biomass to generate power. A methane digester on his farm heats manure to 100 degrees F. This produces methane, which powers the turbine. The unit generates enough electricity for Decker's farm and 50 homes. Decker's project eliminates carbon and methane emissions, both of which contribute to global warming.

Do you think this is a possible alternative of power generation, and after all, it's an efficient use of waste, no?[/color:post_uid5][/quote:post_uid5]
[color=#810541:post_uid5]*Wow, that's interesting.  Thanks for posting this; I wasn't aware.  Sounds good to me.  smile

--Cindy[/color:post_uid5]


We all know those Venusians: Doing their hair in shock waves, smoking electrical coronas, wearing Van Allen belts and resting their tiny elbows on a Geiger counter...

--John Sladek (The New Apocrypha)

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#4 2003-06-19 16:06:52

Lone--Wolfe
Member
From: Canada
Registered: 2003-06-16
Posts: 20

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid0]No problem. I've been doing lots of research on that. Also, if we perfect it on Earth, we can get back to the 50's age of unlimited power. If you also check my other post on a rail gun in Interplanetary Transportation, it could be used to generate power for that. big_smile[/color:post_uid0]

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#5 2003-06-19 18:14:48

pootechie
Member
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2003-06-18
Posts: 15

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid0]No problem. I've been doing lots of research on that. Also, if we perfect it on Earth, we can get back to the 50's age of unlimited power. If you also check my other post on a rail gun in Interplanetary Transportation, it could be used to generate power for that. big_smile[/color:post_uid0][/quote:post_uid0]
[color=#000000:post_uid0]I think you are overestimating the amount of power such a system would produce, especially considering that there is absolutely no theoretical basis for considering it's efficiency on a very large scale, let alone on a laboratory scale.  Railguns draw [b:post_uid0]big[/b:post_uid0] power: nuclear reactor big, or unreasonably large solar array big, and that's about all we'll have on mars. 

Besides.... why suffer energy losses generating electricity when the methane can be utilized directly and efficiently by a methane/oxygen rocket engine? 

A railgun interplanetary transportation system is very much science-fiction: theoretically possible and perhaps within our current technological capacity, but undeveloped and [i:post_uid0]expensive[/i:post_uid0].  This biogas technology we are discussing is usable in a near term and relatively mature, and if employed as rocket propellant or internal-combustion engine fuel can help us conquer Mars [i:post_uid0]today[/i:post_uid0] (or whenever we decide to go).

That is what is exciting about added-value solid-waste processing technology.

Oh, and this is definitely not an "unlimited power source".... it is by no means space efficient, requires a great deal of input energy on a large scale, and its energy potential is directly limited by the amount of [u:post_uid0]poo[/u:post_uid0] we produce.  tongue[/color:post_uid0]


"For an engineer, innovation is not an option, it is a necessity"

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#6 2003-06-19 23:30:58

pootechie
Member
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2003-06-18
Posts: 15

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid0]The only ways for producing oxygen are by plant photosintesis (but plants need heat and artificial light...) and solid oxide electrolisis. Either way, you will consume a great deal of power just to produce oxygen, and i doubt you will get more energy back.[/color:post_uid0][/quote:post_uid0]
[color=#000000:post_uid0]Well, BGD, you just had to go and ruin our fun, didn't you?  :;):

Seriously though, you make some very good points: without a supply of oxygen, even this [i:post_uid0]anaerobic[/i:post_uid0] waste treatment system is next to useless.  I feel your list of potential Martian oxygen sources is incomplete in that it disregards the hydrolysis of water obtained from the ice caps and any potential permafrost.  True, that is also a power intensive operation, but energy input is not really the issue.

Please allow me to attempt to explain:

A good life support system should have an extremely high degree of closure in the oxygen and water regeneration loops, and some degree of closure in the food loop.  Provided we build a mechanically sound ecological vessel, then we should prevail in water/oxygen retention; oxygen chemically bound up in the waste water I have described before can freed eventually by the biological processes occurring in the greenhouse stage.

I got a C in chemistry, so correct me if I'm wrong in saying that

  CH4 + O2 --> C  + 2H2O

So, if we oxidize the biogas produced by the digester and condense the water, we end up with complete closure of the water/oxygen loops.

However, I'm not certain how the carbon we produce can be used, but I'd bet the Martian metallurgists could find something fun to do with it.

Yet, on Mars, with as much CO2 as we could ever ask for, there is no risk of carbon loss in the system, thanks to the yummy photoautotrophs we'll be bringing along.

So, I think that's one way this technology could be employed as (at least a component of) a CELSS. 

Sure, it'll could get a little energy intensive, but that's why the Mars Direct plan (wisely) calls for the use of nuclear power... it's the only way to fly in the near term.

(A thousand apologies for the rambling nature of this post... it's late)[/color:post_uid0]


"For an engineer, innovation is not an option, it is a necessity"

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#7 2003-06-20 01:18:19

Josh Cryer
Administrator
Registered: 2001-09-29
Posts: 3,830

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Wow, I really really can't stay around to make a [i:post_uid0]proper[/i:post_uid0] post deserving of this topic, but I have to say that this is one of the most interesting threads I've read in awhile (no offense to my fellow NewMars-goers, as I find most threads here to be enjoyable!).

In any case, and I really am in a rush, Wolfe, might you have a link to the article you posted?

I had suggested quite awhile ago that biomass could make a good energy store (indeed, search for energy and biomass and I'm certain I'm the one speaking of it mostly), but I never really got into it in depth (especially with regards to Mars power generation). I would be quite interested in how this farmer implements everything, and how much energy is produced, and basically, the overall efficiency of the system.

All I've known is that a) biomass can be grown anywhere there is enough sunlight and a proper ecosystem (ie, CELSS), and b) it's most [known] efficient (when all relevant variables are taken into consideration) way to store sunlight.

I'd been thinking that nuclear could give us our power, but I've always been on the verge of outright stating that biomass could replace it (I actually have with regards to other non-Mars related energy!- but then that gets into my fantistical speculation that a lot of people here get tired of). It's just that I haven't really come up with the data to back such an assertion up. How big is Deckers farm? How many cows? (Note that I'm not saying that we'd take cows to Mars, but that this is a general biomass/time/energy estimate.)

BTW, the plants create our oxygen, and we can show that for every X ammount of methane we create there is an equally proportionate ammount of oxygen. Mass tends to not like to be destoryed in basic chemical reactions! But I think pootechie made the basic point, without being as long winded  and generally confusing as myself.

Anyway, I must part. pootechie, Wolfe, welcome aboard, I look forward to continued CELSS-style discussions (ahh, when time permits!).[/color:post_uid0]


Some useful links while MER are active. Offical site NASA TV JPL MER2004 Text feed
--------
The amount of solar radiation reaching the surface of the earth totals some 3.9 million exajoules a year.

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#8 2003-06-20 02:00:27

Shaun Barrett
Member
From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid4]I haven't touched chemistry for 30 years but wouldn't that equation be:-
               CH4 + 2O2 --> CO2 + 2H2O  ?   ???

    Just a thought. (I stand ready to be shot down on this.)
                                        smile[/color:post_uid4]


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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#9 2003-06-20 08:26:08

pootechie
Member
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2003-06-18
Posts: 15

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid0]I haven't touched chemistry for 30 years but wouldn't that equation be:-
               CH4 + 2O2 --> CO2 + 2H2O  ?[/color:post_uid0][/quote:post_uid0]
[color=#000000:post_uid0]It is I who stand corrected: your equation is the right one.[/color:post_uid0]


"For an engineer, innovation is not an option, it is a necessity"

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#10 2003-06-20 16:32:54

Lone--Wolfe
Member
From: Canada
Registered: 2003-06-16
Posts: 20

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Not really for a link, i just searched the web for methane power. I found it on some small site... forget which. Sorry.[/color:post_uid0]

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#11 2003-06-20 18:00:26

Josh Cryer
Administrator
Registered: 2001-09-29
Posts: 3,830

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Ahh, Shaun, I didn't even notice his mistake. smile

What makes it sillier of me, is that he mentioned that there would be potential problems with carbon (“[...] I'm not certain how the carbon we produce can be used [...]”). That should've certainly triggered something for me, given that CO2 is basically the state that the carbon and oxygen begin in! I should've corrected that. Oh well, it does show the point about mass conversaion quite well, doesn't it?


pootechie, so there you have it, my friend, it's totally cyclic, just as you suspected (despite your small error which, in my opinion, was prefectably reasonable to make). Have your studies in Washington touched upon pyrolysis?


Wolfe, it's okay, I believe it. Ford showed numbers as to how one could just put aside 10% of their potato crop-land and use it to fuel the machines that cultivated it. Quite believable, really. It just interests me to see when people actually [i:post_uid0]implement[/i:post_uid0] these clean, efficient, renewable, cheap, designs. There's no rule in the universe saying it can't be done, it's just that people haven't done it yet for whatever reason (for example, making a potato farm not rely on outside gasoline, etc, would probably require taking a whole years profit to do so- quite a prohibitive action).[/color:post_uid0]


Some useful links while MER are active. Offical site NASA TV JPL MER2004 Text feed
--------
The amount of solar radiation reaching the surface of the earth totals some 3.9 million exajoules a year.

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#12 2003-06-21 02:19:01

pootechie
Member
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2003-06-18
Posts: 15

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid7]Behold! The Product of Boredom:

[img:post_uid7]http://www.wsu.edu/~cparkin/anaerodigest_celss1.jpg[/img:post_uid7]

[b:post_uid7]Think this'd work?[/b:post_uid7][/color:post_uid7]


"For an engineer, innovation is not an option, it is a necessity"

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#13 2003-06-21 02:50:19

pootechie
Member
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2003-06-18
Posts: 15

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid0]

pootechie [...] have your studies in Washington touched upon pyrolysis?[/quote:post_uid0]
I can't say that they have... I am an undergraduate Biological Systems Engineering student working as a research assistant for a group of professors developing new anaerobic reactor designs for the added-value treatment of agricultural and industrial waste. 

Thus, my knowlege on the subject is confined to the operation of these and similar reactors, which operate at low temperatures on fairly complex organic molecules.  The speculations I make about the application of this technology to bio-regenerative life support systems are entirely my own, and in fact quite a stretch from their definite, practical application.

[...]so there you have it, my friend, it's totally cyclic, just as you suspected[...][/quote:post_uid0]

It appears to be cyclic yes, but uncomfortably complex.  A greenhouse is a complicated biosphere unto itself with all manner of micorhyzae, bacteria and what not inhabiting (at least healthy) soil along with the plants we are after.  Both the digester and incinerator are quite rapid in their operation in comparison to the systems botanical component, and I worry that this will creat a rather dreadful 'design bottleneck,' so to speak.

As justified above, I lack the technical know-how to consider any matters of precision, but I suspect that the easiest solution is simply to increase the size of the greenhouse and the amount of water in the system.

If only it were that easy...[/color:post_uid0]


"For an engineer, innovation is not an option, it is a necessity"

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#14 2003-06-21 09:50:23

Lone--Wolfe
Member
From: Canada
Registered: 2003-06-16
Posts: 20

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

.

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#15 2003-06-21 11:53:40

pootechie
Member
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2003-06-18
Posts: 15

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid8]

How old do you think I am for thinking up this for possible generators?[/quote:post_uid8]

I worry about the usefullness of such discussion: a good idea is a good idea, regardless of the characteristics of the person [i:post_uid8]mentions[/i:post_uid8] it.  The purpose of [i:post_uid8]this[/i:post_uid8] forum, at least, is to talk about Mars, and not to fish for compliments.

All I've known is that a) biomass can be grown anywhere there is enough sunlight and a proper ecosystem (ie, CELSS), and b) it's most [known] efficient (when all relevant variables are taken into consideration) way to store sunlight.[/quote:post_uid8]

Does anybody know what plant species are most efficient at such energy storage while at the same time being fairly ideal as a food source for Astronauts and growing rapidly?  I would think that traditional cereal plants are quite out of the question, but legumes?  Seems like we would really need a superplant...[/color:post_uid8]


"For an engineer, innovation is not an option, it is a necessity"

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#16 2003-06-21 14:16:41

Josh Cryer
Administrator
Registered: 2001-09-29
Posts: 3,830

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid0]

I can't say that they have... [studied pyrolysis.][/quote:post_uid0]

Well, in your very nice diagram there, we could put a pyrolysis machine next to or inside the digester. Pyrolysis is a relatively simple concept, you throw in biomass, out comes methane and charcoal. It can (and does) run itself, as long as you have biomass to give it.

Just curious as to whether or not you'd used one of these relatively simple machines (they've been around for 2000 years or more), as I haven't had a chance to play with one.

The speculations I make about the application of this technology to bio-regenerative life support systems are entirely my own, and in fact quite a stretch from their definite, practical application.[/quote:post_uid0]

Well, I think they're quite thought provoking, in any case. It's good to have someone who is actually studying this sort of thing directly. I'm much better at the argicultural aspect (having lots of experience in that field), and every time I attempt to get into bio-regenerative type stuff, I get bogged down with all the different techniques. Seperating chemicals and so on is a relatively daunting task. At least in my humble opinion.

Also, I'm pretty strapped for time, so the only time I'm really able to read about organic chemistry and so on, is when I'm on the... well... crapper. If you will.

Which is funny, I guess. smile

It appears to be cyclic yes, but uncomfortably complex.  A greenhouse is a complicated biosphere unto itself with all manner of micorhyzae, bacteria and what not inhabiting (at least healthy) soil along with the plants we are after.[/quote:post_uid0]

Well, sure, it's somewhat complicated when you take into account all the various biota necessary to sustain a regular greenhouse. This is specifically why we need to get into hydroponic or aeroponic growth processes. We certainly can't ship soil to Mars, this much is sure. I really recomment you read the Bios-3 article I posted in the vat food thread, it makes a lot of good points in this area. They even go so far as to say that the organic part is the strongest part of the system, since organics are naturally able to replinish themselves (a lightbulb or scrubber can't replace itself, whereas a plant can).

Hydroponics, from personal experience, are actually quite simple. Plants require nitrogen fixing to process complex molocules. Nitrogen fixing is done by bacteria in the roots of plants. Soil generally gives the plants the necessary nitrogen fixing bacteria, but soil tends to be quite complex, with a large variety of such bacteria. What we'd do is simply get the most efficient bacteria (I can't recall the species off hand, and even if I could, I probably wouldn't spell it right!) and do the nitrogen fixing ourselves. So, using hydroponics (or alternatively aeroponics), we've quite literally deleted a rather complex part of the system.

Soil-less processes are the only way we're going to get anywhere, [i:post_uid0]anyway[/i:post_uid0].

Later, you ask,

Does anybody know what plant species are most efficient at such energy storage while at the same time being fairly ideal as a food source for Astronauts and growing rapidly?[/quote:post_uid0]

Cannibas... heh. And I'm not kidding. Hempseed was used as a food for quite a long time, right up there with soy (in fact, there is a market out there for soy-style hemp-based alternative products). Hemp is one of the fastest growing plants, and is relatively impervous to UV light.

Now, I don't know for sure if it can really do as good as the information I've read about it. But I have no reason to believe the things I've read are untrue. So your milage may vary. Given that it's banned, we can't rightly do studies upon it (if only to get rid of the THC). So if we were to implement these systems ala Biosphere 3 (that's what I want to call it anyway), we would probably be reduced to something... more... legal. Soy is second best, I believe. But any food crop can be used within pyrolysis (that's how we extract the stored energy). Note that most crops leave quite a bit of biomass behind after you've stripped away the edible parts, and also, there is going to be waste. So I would argue that any variety of food crops could potentially act as an energy store, maybe not the most efficient, but it would still work. We don't need to grow just one crop, I wouldn't think.[/color:post_uid0]


Some useful links while MER are active. Offical site NASA TV JPL MER2004 Text feed
--------
The amount of solar radiation reaching the surface of the earth totals some 3.9 million exajoules a year.

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#17 2003-06-24 20:23:17

colonist
Member
Registered: 2002-03-23
Posts: 24

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid2]Interesting suggestion. In determining the usefullness of this system it must be taken into account that we will HAVE to deal with sewage. The needed equipment to set up this system (tanks, pipes, shredders for sewage, etc) will be brought along as working components of the landers or can be easily improvised. The digester itself could be set up outside of the pressurized area to avoid crowding (would have to be insulated) but most of the problems of biologicaly active mathane production have been solved for some time.

As for the volume of waste to be passed through the system, lets consider one possible "mars-stead" scenario: 3 trench greenhouses hold several farming beds and the steadings small herd of 8 doe and 2 buck rabbits. Under the rabbit cages are small "worm beds" for the rabbit droppings and next to them are low aquaculture tanks. In the tanks (just stone sided pits, realy) are catfish and crayfish. Every morning a portion of the water in the tank is drawn off from the lowest part (like a sump) and used to break up one shovelfull of material from the worm bed. The worms are thrown into the tank and the resulting slurry is added to the digester (along with all sewage and a potion of the agricultual waste). When the daily "charge" is added an equal ammount of "spent" slurry is forced out the other end. This is collected and can be used in the garden as a high nitrogen liquid fertilizer or used as suggested in the article at www.kurtsaxon.com/thefantasticfly (slightly modified for these conditions). The methane could be compressed and stored in other tanks and used for cooking or powering vehicles. The crops would be a good mix similar to plants found in small family gardens, with the addition of some "industrial" plants (lufa, industrial hemp,) and some unusual crops (cattails).

What do you think?[/color:post_uid2]

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#18 2003-06-25 08:29:05

Bill White
Member
Registered: 2001-09-09
Posts: 2,114

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid0]An additional energy source might be: photocatalysis. Microbial photocatalysis would be even better.

Heating the greenhouses should not be a big problem. Aerogel thermopanes (with reflective mylar solar concentrators and passive light tubes if necessary) can mean that the settlers and their plants live inside giant Thermos bottles.

Getting rid of (finding a use for) waste heat may be a bigger problem than staying warm.

With a terra preta feedstock, we only need to import a small quantity of soil. Large quantities grow on their own.

In the Brazilian Amazon basin there are small spots of sustainable and very fertile anthropogenic black earth soils of precolumbian origin (Terra Preta do Indio) within the typical rather infertile Oxisol landscape.The Terra Preta soils are characterized by a higher cation exchange capacity, higher phosphorus levels and a higher content of soil organic matter (SOM). The accumulation of organic matter in soils of the humid tropics seems quite paradox because of the optimum conditions of degradation.[/quote:post_uid0]

Terra preta requires a complex interplay of many thousand so of species of bacteria so bringingalong even 100 kilos of this stuff provides a rich diversity of microbial life.

No Josh this does NOT replace hydroponics. Like the silly nature/nuture debate soil versus hydroponics is a waste of time. Its both![/color:post_uid0]

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#19 2003-06-26 21:02:14

Josh Cryer
Administrator
Registered: 2001-09-29
Posts: 3,830

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid0]But can it grow in Martian regolith? smile

Don't worry, I'm not going to throw out the idea of soil completely (sorry if I seem to do that). I'm just curious as to whether or not it'd work on the first try, that's all.

I'm a get-it-right-the-first-time sort of guy. tongue[/color:post_uid0]


Some useful links while MER are active. Offical site NASA TV JPL MER2004 Text feed
--------
The amount of solar radiation reaching the surface of the earth totals some 3.9 million exajoules a year.

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#20 2003-06-27 22:57:12

sethmckiness
Member
From: Iowa
Registered: 2002-09-20
Posts: 230

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Ok, I have to make a smart ass post real quick..  has anyone else had flashbacks from Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome?

Ok.  I just had to say that...[/color:post_uid0]


We are only limited by our Will and our Imagination.

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#21 2003-06-28 08:09:30

colonist
Member
Registered: 2002-03-23
Posts: 24

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid0]lol!

But seriously, the problems encountered by early colonists will in many ways paralell those expected by survivalists after a major TEOTWAWKI event. The first colonists will be on their own in the same way that hardcore survivalists expect to be. When your nearest resuply is at least 6-9 months away the loss of food production capacity is a death scentance.

If you go to some of the boards frequented by real survivalists (as oposed to "patriots" or "tribulationists") you will find their advice posts to hold several key philosophies. Key among them are:

1) Live off the land (Zubrin already has brought this one out in his book)

2) Single effort, multiple results (on mars, this could be useing RTGs to melt permafrost deposits)

3) if you need it to survive, be able to build it from scratch, improvise repairs or make a substitute (Anything that we need to survive MUST be able to be made or repaired ON MARS. waiting for a part from the main office is fine for a xerox machine but not for life suport equipment)

4) develop minimalist alternatives (these people make backpack stoves out of soda cans, fishing gear out of found trash and other "MacGuyver" items. We must develop the same mindset if we are to colonise another planet.)

For any of our plans for long term colonisation to be possible we need to develop some of the same mindsets as these people. Here are some links that have some information that we can use.

kurt saxons page

These sites contain mostly food production and power (electricity) information for survivalists and the poor in the 3rd world, but the info is good and we can use it I think.[/color:post_uid0]

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#22 2003-07-02 09:32:11

Bill White
Member
Registered: 2001-09-09
Posts: 2,114

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid0]

But can it grow in Martian regolith? smile

Don't worry, I'm not going to throw out the idea of soil completely (sorry if I seem to do that). I'm just curious as to whether or not it'd work on the first try, that's all.

I'm a get-it-right-the-first-time sort of guy. tongue[/quote:post_uid0]
My idea is to take a modest stockpile of terra preta (and other similiar soils) segregate them into various isolated containers (not all your eggs in one basket) and carefully "feed" the soil with plant compost, selected nutrients harvested from the human waste stream (rabbit poop would help too) and inorganic regolith to add bulk and minerals or key salts, as available.

The key to healthy soil appears to be a complex suite of microbes and IF we care for and feed those microbes appropriately, they will reproduce exponentially. The goal is to get this suite of Terran microbes to colonize controlled amounts of regolith assisted as needed with compost.

(An aside, we DNA life forms are the BORG - all will be assimiliated! Resistance is futile!)

Hydroponics is essential to generate plant compost and the soil project is necessary to allow compost and plover to be used (recycled) rather than discarded. Hydroponics remains essential to feed the settlers unless/until the soil project really gets going, perhaps after decades. Stockpiles of emergency MREs would seem prudent and I have read where the US Army is working on a PB&J sandwich MRE with a 30 year shelf life.

Yech! But if its nutriuous, we need 'em!

Need potassium for the soil? Send MREs from Earth with banana based deserts and mine the human waste stream for potassium. Get as many two for one deals as you can. And so on. . .

Soil may take 20 years or 50 years to really get going but ultimately its the only way to wean the settlement from the need to import freeze dried hydroponic powder.

IMHO

smile[/color:post_uid0]

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#23 2003-07-02 10:08:06

Bill White
Member
Registered: 2001-09-09
Posts: 2,114

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid0]IMHO this is exactly right!

1) Live off the land (Zubrin already has brought this one out in his book)[/quote:post_uid0]

Import what you must but as little as possible, yet take everything you can get from Earth, greedily, and use it. No bullshit about the purity of ecological balance.

As for growing food, finding ammonia ice on Phobos or Deimos would be a gift from God! Nitrogen! Mars needs nitrogen!

2) Single effort, multiple results (on mars, this could be useing RTGs to melt permafrost deposits)[/quote:post_uid0]

Settlers will need as many "two for one" or "three for one" deals as possible. 

For example, everything that gets imported from Earth, absolutely everything, should be officially sponsored for a  suitable promotional fee. Dehydrated hydroponic powder? MiracleGro pays to slap its label on the plastic bag used to ship the powder. Later the plastic bag is dissolved and its organic molecules recovered and used by the settlers, including the ink used to print "MiracleGro"

3) if you need it to survive, be able to build it from scratch, improvise repairs or make a substitute (Anything that we need to survive MUST be able to be made or repaired ON MARS. waiting for a part from the main office is fine for a xerox machine but not for life suport equipment)[/quote:post_uid0]

I like the idea of taking enginered microbes along with a rudimentary gene laboratory to do things like making methane. These guys can make more of themselves.

4) develop minimalist alternatives (these people make backpack stoves out of soda cans, fishing gear out of found trash and other "MacGuyver" items. We must develop the same mindset if we are to colonise another planet.)[/quote:post_uid0]

Absolutely yes![/color:post_uid0]

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#24 2003-07-17 22:17:30

colonist
Member
Registered: 2002-03-23
Posts: 24

Re: Another Power System on Mars... - Bio-Generator

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Bill, you get the "2-4-1" idea but IMO you are thinking too narrowly. Take your example of the MiracleGro hydroponic solution. Instead of trying to recover the elements in the bags (which are mostly just hydrogen and carbon anyway), specify that the material must be shipped with 5 lbs of powder in a 1'x2' triple layer silvered mylar bag. a shipment of 100lbs of powder will therefore yield 240 sq' of mylar reflector.

Any shiping container and packageing must be as close to 100% reuseable as possible. Consider the following:

1) shiping containers are to be either built to allow easy reuse (furniture, etc) or teardown (recovery of materials)

2) packageing materials should be something that you would be sending the colony anyway (use crumpled t-shirts and sweat pants instead of foam)

3) consider some of the things that would be there anyway as industrial equipment. (a landing engine run with methane/O2 at 0-1% thrust would make a handy melting furnace for recoverig scrap aluminum useing half a steel air tank as a crucible)

Think like the engineers for Apolo 13. We have X list of materials and we need to do Y. Failure is not an option.

As far as gene modification of bacteria for methane production, why bother? We all carry a healthy colony of such bacteria in our guts. Simply confine out solid wastes in a closedtank and the fermentation will take place.[/color:post_uid0]

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