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Thread: Power and other systems on Mars

  1. #1 Power and other systems on Mars 
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    There are various problems with renewable power on Mars. Solar panels cannot work during Mars's dust storms, and conversely wind turbines cannot work if there is not a dust storm occurring. Though a hybrid system would work, it would also be very infrastructure inefficient, as only one would work at a time. Anyone have any theories on how to produce renewable, usable power on Mars?

    I read about microwave power transmission, and thought that solar panels orbiting Mars could collect energy and send it down to the planet via microwave. It is not a new idea, but would it be feasible? It is about 84-85% efficient, so it could work, but are there any other methods that would be more feasible and work almost 24/7?

    Also, irradiation and meteorites would cause damage to systems exposed to the elements (either in space or on the surface of Mars), and dust storms could damage more fragile aboveground systems. In addition, what systems of getting food would be efficient and practical on a Mars base? Would aquaponics, or aeroponics be better than geoponics? What about sending MREs or similar to Mars? I'm very curious about how to make a sustainable base on Mars that could support life for extended periods of time. If anyone has theories, ideas, or links to previous experiments, please share them.


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  3. #2  
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    Seems a bit premature to be worrying about this now, but given the general emptyness of Mars the beamed microwave sounds workable.


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  4. #3  
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    It is about 84-85% efficient, so it could work, but are there any other methods that would be more feasible and work almost 24/7?
    Could you provide a link to verify those numbers? I've understood that microwave transmissions are only good for a very short distance not hundreds of miles.
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blahgory View Post
    There are various problems with renewable power on Mars. Solar panels cannot work during Mars's dust storms, and conversely wind turbines cannot work if there is not a dust storm occurring. Though a hybrid system would work, it would also be very infrastructure inefficient, as only one would work at a time. Anyone have any theories on how to produce renewable, usable power on Mars?
    Renewable is overrated. Why not just go nuclear? It wouldn't take a large volume of fissionable material to power your Mars base for a long time.

    And the waste is a non-issue because you're in space already. Mars has barely more gravity than the Moon, so you can move the waste off planet if you're worried about it damaging "Mars' fragile ecosystem".


    I read about microwave power transmission, and thought that solar panels orbiting Mars could collect energy and send it down to the planet via microwave. It is not a new idea, but would it be feasible? It is about 84-85% efficient, so it could work, but are there any other methods that would be more feasible and work almost 24/7?

    Also, irradiation and meteorites would cause damage to systems exposed to the elements (either in space or on the surface of Mars), and dust storms could damage more fragile aboveground systems. In addition, what systems of getting food would be efficient and practical on a Mars base? Would aquaponics, or aeroponics be better than geoponics? What about sending MREs or similar to Mars? I'm very curious about how to make a sustainable base on Mars that could support life for extended periods of time. If anyone has theories, ideas, or links to previous experiments, please share them.

    Another possibility, instead of sending microwaves (which will spread out over the vast distances), would be to hurl projectiles from space, down toward a target site on the planet. They'll hit with incredible force, producing large amounts of heat, which you could harness into a heat engine or something.


    One of the advantages of having a thin atmosphere.
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post

    I read about microwave power transmission, and thought that solar panels orbiting Mars could collect energy and send it down to the planet via microwave. It is not a new idea, but would it be feasible? It is about 84-85% efficient, so it could work, but are there any other methods that would be more feasible and work almost 24/7?

    Also, irradiation and meteorites would cause damage to systems exposed to the elements (either in space or on the surface of Mars), and dust storms could damage more fragile aboveground systems. In addition, what systems of getting food would be efficient and practical on a Mars base? Would aquaponics, or aeroponics be better than geoponics? What about sending MREs or similar to Mars? I'm very curious about how to make a sustainable base on Mars that could support life for extended periods of time. If anyone has theories, ideas, or links to previous experiments, please share them.

    Another possibility, instead of sending microwaves (which will spread out over the vast distances), would be to hurl projectiles from space, down toward a target site on the planet. They'll hit with incredible force, producing large amounts of heat, which you could harness into a heat engine or something.


    One of the advantages of having a thin atmosphere.[/QUOTE]

    What about using collected solar energy to power a laser which will send heat to aforementioned heat (sterling?) engine. See Laser Powered Stirling Engine - Laser Pointer Forums - Discuss Laser Pointers for another topic on the idea.

    Also, renewable is overrated, but it would get more support from people than a fission reactor.

    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler View Post
    It is about 84-85% efficient, so it could work, but are there any other methods that would be more feasible and work almost 24/7?
    Could you provide a link to verify those numbers? I've understood that microwave transmissions are only good for a very short distance not hundreds of miles.
    It turns out I was wrong. Perhaps solar-powered lasers powering a sterling engine would be better?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blahgory View Post
    There are various problems with renewable power on Mars. Solar panels cannot work during Mars's dust storms, and conversely wind turbines cannot work if there is not a dust storm occurring.
    Wind turbines are pretty problematic. You need very high wind speeds to get any power due to the very low atmospheric pressures on Mars.

    Though a hybrid system would work, it would also be very infrastructure inefficient, as only one would work at a time. Anyone have any theories on how to produce renewable, usable power on Mars?
    Nuclear reactors would be our best semi-renewable solution.
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blahgory View Post
    What about using collected solar energy to power a laser which will send heat to aforementioned heat (sterling?) engine. See Laser Powered Stirling Engine - Laser Pointer Forums - Discuss Laser Pointers for another topic on the idea.


    Also, renewable is overrated, but it would get more support from people than a fission reactor.
    It's funny to me that the public's mind is unable to change gears when we're talking about space instead of Earth. On Earth, nuclear waste is a problem. If we want to store it for long enough for it to lose its radioactivity, we have to seal it to make sure it never leaks into any underground water supplies, or the air, or other things.

    In space, we can simply throw it into the Sun if we're worried about it. The Sun is literally 333 thousand times as massive as Earth. It's very unlikely we'll ever get enough nuclear waste together so that the Sun couldn't handle it.

    Or we could hurl it deep into outer space. Or into Jupiter. Or store it all on a big asteroid, or a crater on the moon (since the moon has no water or air systems for it to leak into). Handling of nuclear waste is an absolute perfect zero issue in space.



    It's just funny that people would object to something that has no possible angle from which to be objected against.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    It's funny to me that the public's mind is unable to change gears when we're talking about space instead of Earth. On Earth, nuclear waste is a problem. If we want to store it for long enough for it to lose its radioactivity, we have to seal it to make sure it never leaks into any underground water supplies, or the air, or other things.

    In space, we can simply throw it into the Sun if we're worried about it. The Sun is literally 333 thousand times as massive as Earth. It's very unlikely we'll ever get enough nuclear waste together so that the Sun couldn't handle it.

    Or we could hurl it deep into outer space. Or into Jupiter. Or store it all on a big asteroid, or a crater on the moon (since the moon has no water or air systems for it to leak into). Handling of nuclear waste is an absolute perfect zero issue in space.



    It's just funny that people would object to something that has no possible angle from which to be objected against.
    Totally. Reminds me of the objection to putting heavy metals into open hotspots, like Hawaii, where they'll sink like cannonballs dropped into water. It's like poisoning the Earth? Back where they belong, and never to return, is more like it.



    Anyway, for solar on Mars maybe this I was thinking for space: Solar fronds. Solar fronds are branched arrays of photovoltaic "scales" supported by bi-metal foil. The bimetal heats unevenly in sunlight, causing it to curl or twist so the photovoltaics always face maximum exposure. A solar frond may partially function if some of it is damaged. Of course it's comparable to a plant leaf.

    The flimsy bi-metal won't hold much weight so it's impractical on Earth. Maybe it could stand up under Martian gravity?

    Alternately, if dust is a problem, we could let the panels move to throw off any dust. Some form of vertical axis wind turbine, with photovoltaics doubling as blades (which I think would be rather broad for Martian atmosphere).
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Blahgory View Post
    What about using collected solar energy to power a laser which will send heat to aforementioned heat (sterling?) engine. See Laser Powered Stirling Engine - Laser Pointer Forums - Discuss Laser Pointers for another topic on the idea.


    Also, renewable is overrated, but it would get more support from people than a fission reactor.
    It's funny to me that the public's mind is unable to change gears when we're talking about space instead of Earth. On Earth, nuclear waste is a problem. If we want to store it for long enough for it to lose its radioactivity, we have to seal it to make sure it never leaks into any underground water supplies, or the air, or other things.

    In space, we can simply throw it into the Sun if we're worried about it. The Sun is literally 333 thousand times as massive as Earth. It's very unlikely we'll ever get enough nuclear waste together so that the Sun couldn't handle it.

    Or we could hurl it deep into outer space. Or into Jupiter. Or store it all on a big asteroid, or a crater on the moon (since the moon has no water or air systems for it to leak into). Handling of nuclear waste is an absolute perfect zero issue in space.



    It's just funny that people would object to something that has no possible angle from which to be objected against.
    Agree with the general sentiment, but feel I should point out that "throwing" things "into the sun" is pretty costly in terms of energy. Everything at the orbital radius of Mars has the requisite orbital velocity (varies between 22 and 27 km per second, so pretty fast) to stay at that distance. So you can only get things from there into the sun by decelerating them by that amount. I'm fairly sure there was a long discussion abut this on another thread some months ago. From what I read, this deceleration is about twice the acceleration needed to put a payload into low Earth orbit. So not out of the question, perhaps, but not specially cheap in energy terms.
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  11. #10  
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    Have to agree with others. Nuc power is probably the best plan.

    Renewable options are limited with low sunlight possibly interrupted by months of even lower gain from regional and planetary dust storms. A partial work around are to place the colony in places with the least dust storms, primarily in the low Northern latitudes

    Wind, because of very low and variable density probably not possible using anything resembling conventional designs.

    One area that might work is using the huge diurnal and season temperature differences between subsurface and surface and a materials phase change to drive turbines. Imagine a cold subsurface liquid pumped to the warm surface, boiling and driving turbines during the summer. Than the process being reversed in the winter. (similar methods have potential on Earth as well).
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  12. #11  
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    As I said, wind cannot work for power on Mars as it would only generate power during dust storms. Conversely, solar panels could be damaged or blocked from sunlight by Mars' dust storms. Nuclear is probably the best plan, however. I'm curious as to what kind of fission reactor would be used. A high temperature gas reactor or a sodium-cooled liquid metal fast breeder reactor like PRISM? Or some other design I'm not aware of.
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