Tech UPTechnologyWe could survive on Mars thanks to solar energy...

We could survive on Mars thanks to solar energy (and not nuclear)


Imagining the human being on Mars is an increasingly common thought. It has been in our imagination and in the field of science fiction for decades. And what would be better for future astronauts living on this planet, solar power generators or nuclear power generators? A research team from the University of California, Berkeley in the United States examined the energy output levels of different types of technology and found that a human expedition on the surface would be more efficient if powered by solar energy.

At some point in the next two decades, humans will travel to Mars for stays so long that they represent the construction of Martian cities, established with safe habitats, laboratories… there will be a lot to do. You will need to make medicine, fuel, distill water, create food, and many other supplies. All this will also require large doses of energy.


Why bet?

Until now it was thought that nuclear power units similar to those that power other spacecraft would be the best option. However, the problem is that these nuclear power units are very heavy and space travel is always very limited in the load they can carry.

Most current rockets can only carry about 100 tons (not including fuel), and a nuclear power plant supplying about a kilowatt of power would weigh about 9.5 tons, which is totally unfeasible by all accounts (on the face of it). transport it to Mars).

“This paper takes a global view of what power technologies are available and how we might implement them, what the best use cases are for them, and where they fall short. If humanity collectively decides that we want to go to Mars, this kind of systems-level approach is necessary to do it safely and minimize cost in a way that is ethical. We want to have a clear comparison between the options, whether we’re deciding which technologies to use, which places to go on Mars, how to go and who to take,” said Anthony Abel, a graduate student in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and co-author of the study. .

And solar energy?

The new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences, argues that a human expedition to Mars can be powered by photovoltaic power systems , rather than nuclear power.

The researchers weighed the options : They compared different ways of generating power. The calculations looked at the amount of equipment mass needed to be transported from Earth to the Martian surface for a six-person mission. Specifically, they quantified the requirements of a nuclear propulsion system against different photovoltaic and even photoelectrochemical devices.

A photovoltaic array that uses compressed hydrogen for energy storage was ultimately the lightest. The “transportable mass” of such a system is about 8.3 tons compared to about 9.5 tons for nuclear power as mentioned above.

Solar power wins

Only photovoltaics with electrolysis , which employs electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, was competitive with nuclear power: it proved to be more profitable per kilogram than nuclear power over nearly half the planet’s surface.

“I think it’s a good thing that the result split pretty close to the middle,” said Aaron Berliner, a bioengineering graduate student at UC Berkeley’s Arkin Laboratory and co-author of the paper. “Closer to the equator, solar power wins; closer to the poles, nuclear power wins .”

Referencia: Anthony J. Abel, Aaron J. Berliner, Mia Mirkovic, William D. Collins, Adam P. Arkin, Douglas S. Clark. Photovoltaics-Driven Power Production Can Support Human Exploration on Mars. Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences, 2022; 9 DOI: 10.3389/fspas.2022.868519

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