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Energy generation at the Mars, for the martian rovers etc.

Posted by: Ekkehard Augustin - Fri Feb 25, 2005 2:58 pm
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Energy generation at the Mars, for the martian rovers etc. 
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Post    Posted on: Thu Dec 07, 2006 8:11 am
Here's an article that says that a lab has achieved a solar cell efficiency of over 40%.

Although they appear to be using a lenz of some sort to concentrate the sunlight which will add extra mass to any solar array the number of cells and its physical size should be reduced making it more practical for use on Mars. Of course this may also mean that the manufacturing of arrays is to complicated to undertake on MArs and more mass must be shipped from Earth.

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Boein ... y_999.html

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Post    Posted on: Fri Dec 22, 2006 10:43 pm
That is quite interesting.


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jan 07, 2007 11:42 am
In between Ifound a bit time to continue thoughts about the generation of electricity on Mars and there are several interesting informations Iread.

But first therte is a new information by the recent edition of Wirtschaftswoche and second the time available is too few in between.

The interesting information is that the german company Heliatek is going to apply coated plastics for solar power. This will drop the price for (investment into) a 1 kw-plant from Euro 5,000 down to less than Euro 1,000. The price for current using these cells would drop from EuroCent 50 per kwh don to EuroCent 10 per kwh.

Since plastics are much lighter than silicium this would reduce the required energies etc. to carry them to Mars - if they woiuldn't be produced there.

But since I am out at checking at present if a colony would turn out to be utopic if a look into electricity and its requirments is done there really interesting question is if such plastic solar cells might be produced on Mars.

It might be easier than the production of silicium-based cells.

The plastic will be laered onto metal fibers or glass - but I don't know the chemicals used yet

Euro 650,000 are available to Heliatek to get the cells matured for serial production. Its founders are scientists from the Universities Ulm and Dresden, one private investor and the High-Tech_Founders_Fund of Bonn.



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Post    Posted on: Mon Jan 29, 2007 3:34 pm
In between I found an article from November last year under www.welt.de .

The article reported that because of increasing costs of fossile energy sources and forced assistance for renewable energy sources enables the solar power industry to grow by a rate 40% at present.

This might lead to improvements that may be of meaning for electricity generation on Mars.

Some numbers in detail (perhaps of interest also under the aspect that for a short time the use of solar power here on Earth has been discussed in this thread):

Possible growth of worldwide demand for solar modules for electricity generation until 2010: from 1,700 mw to 5,000 mw

Total performance of solar power plants going to be installed in Germany in 2007: around 600 mw

Worldwide installed total performance in 2006: 1,700 mw

Share of solar power of current consumed in germany in 2007: 0.25%

The industry is aiming at goals which might drop the costs of solar power from between 25 EuroCent and 40 EuroCent down to 10 EuroCent.

The requirements to achieve such a drop are that the amount of Silicon drops from 10 tons per mw to 5 tons per mw and that the efficiency grows to 20% - according to Joachim Nick-Leptin of the Department for Research and Development of Renewable Energies of the Federal Ministry of Environment.

It is mentioned that the producers of solar cells are competing for Silcion with the computer chip industry and that because of this Silicon is expensive.

But BP Solar has developed a method to produce solar cells with 8 % higher current output at a more favourable price.

The german company Würth Solar (Schwäbisch Hall) plans to produce 200,000 CIS solar modules wih an annual capacity of 14.8 mw – regarding this the article explicitly mentions that CIS mosules have the advantage that even at not that ideal light-conditions the current got is acceptable.

According to the article the next technological leap or step can be sen on the horizon – thin-layer-cells on polymere- or metal-film a few micrometers thick. This sounds as if it might reduce the weight per kw to be carried into space and to Mars. It also tends to reduce the production costs because fewer processes need to be interrupted.




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Post    Posted on: Sat Mar 24, 2007 7:04 am
article mentioned below found and the link added at the end of this post

WannabeSpaceCadet applied a number about the weight of a nuclear reactor several posts earlier the source of I am still looking for. Doing so I also explore informations about fusion reactors because they are mentioned in this thread also several times.

On of the informations I found is that the production of one kilogram of Helium generates 200 mio kwh. These 200 mio kwh theoretically are the amount of electricity consumed all over Germany within 3.5 hours.

This means that to power Germany for one year by a fusion reactor requires to produce more than 2,500 kg of Helium. According to Wikipedia this is based of Deuterium and Tritium. Since some of the mass of Deuterium and Tritium is released as the enegry of 200 kwh by the fusion more than one kilogram of Deuterium plus Tritium is required to power Germany for 3.5 hours.

This means that to power a martian colony consuming the same amount of electricity per unit of time as Germany for 100 years would require more than 250,000 kg of Deuterium plus Tritium – 1,000 years would require 2.5 mio kg.

Now Deuterium is very rare on Earth – it might be much more rare on Mars because there is much less water than on Earth, the atmosphere is thinner and will include less hydrogen than the earthian one.

This means that it might be very hard to get the amounts of Deuterium and Tritium required. They may have to be harvested from Jupiter and/or the other gas giants – which will a bit more tricky.

A few weeks ago I read an article under www.space.com I cannot list and quote this moment here, because I am faced to problems to access space.com at present – I will add the article and the quote later. The article is reporting about a way students have found to handle a problem with electronic elements on martion lander and rovers.

The problem to be handled is the danger of light bows and lightnings between the electronic elements. AsAss le tells the source of the problem is the thinness of the martian atmosphere.

Back to the generation of electricity by nuclear or/and fusion reactors on Mars this means an additional problem. Since the reactors will have to be located centrally while the places where the electricity is required will be spread over an area similar to at least the german state Schleswig-Holstein the elctricity has to be delivered by cables.

These cables will have to be high-voltage-cables. If these cables would be installed as they are on Earth lightbows and lightnings are to be expected – meaning damages, significant losses of electricity, shortages of electricity at the places it is to be delivered. This is a danger for homes and martian industries.

One solution might be to pressurize the cables. Which way could this be done? At present I think of installing them subsurface in huge tubes that have a pressure above that of the earthian atmosphere.

This system of pressurized tubes might have to be hundreds and thousands of kilometers long.

In difference to that solar cells would be decentral. They could be installed on top of pressurized buildings the elctronics to be powered would be installed in. The pressurized tubes for the cables wouldn’t be required and there would be not that danger of lightbows and lightnings. That buildings would be pressurized nonetheless because people would be living or working there.

...
...
...



Dipl.-Volkswirt (bdvb) Augustin (Political Economist)

EDIT: Article mentioned

The title of the article is "New Instrument Designed to Sift for Life on Mars" ( www.space.com/businesstechnology/070228 ... sspec.html )

I do have not a single idea why I remembered the term "light bow" - the correct english term of course is arcing and menas "Lichbogen" in German.

The article says that [quote]Using high voltages on Mars is dangerous because of the risks of “arcing,â€


Last edited by Ekkehard Augustin on Sun Mar 25, 2007 3:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post    Posted on: Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:50 am
Any solar powered colony on Mars will require a network of cables almost as big as that used for a nuclear powered one. It is likely that a number of dwellings would be built close together to save energy and complexity (the energy for heating a large complex of buildings sharing common walls and utilities will be less than lots of small disassociated dwellings spread out across Mars). This will mean that solar arrays will have to be located in solar farms and connected by cables to the dwellings.

People will want to live together (at least initially) because of safety in numbers akin to wagon trains forming a circle on the American prairies when setlers pushed the frontier in the US.

Also living in close proximity will reduce things like transport requirements so that shared vehicles are used. If individual dwellings are far apart then each will require its own vehicle.

For these reasons I do not see a colony made up of separate dwellings with their own solar power and a single base with its own power supply more realistic, in such a case cables will be the same issue for either nuclear or solar power generation.

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Post    Posted on: Sat Mar 24, 2007 9:50 am
I would have to agree with the assumption that Mars colony housing would have to be built in close proximity with each other. More likely than not being dormitory like in nature. Not just because it is necessary for energy purposes but rather because the environment outside is hostile. Why would you want a 3 bed 2 bath home on a 40 acre lot when none of the land you are sitting on can be used by you for anything other than collecting solar power.

Now if/when terraforming begins to become feasible I can see that people may be wanting to prep the land they own to grow something. However in the meantime being away from the society as a whole is more of a problem for you rather then a benefit. Just think of how much power you are going to be using to do your daily drive into "town" to go to work or pick up supplies, ect.

I suspect that each independant colony would have it's own power generation plant rather then have a centrally located power plant that sends power all over the place the way we do things here. Maybe in the distant future when you can walk around outside on mars without a special suit, you can start thinking of something like a central power plant that serves an enormous area would be better. The only way I could see it be different is if a real good power source was found on Mars that would warrent a power plant... like maybe a fast moving underground river that you could dam to generate power, or something along those lines.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Apr 02, 2007 12:41 pm
The distances between the homes etc. might be limited by the martian environment:

rims of craters
diameters of craters
depth of craters
obstacles between regions and areas like deep canyons and high montains
composition of surface and subsurface
...

I suppose it to be dangerous to have skyscrapers or the like on Mars. And their construction requires an industry that only is possible if the number of people exceeds 100,000 or 1 mio or even more.

The question is how much people will live in the/a martian colony – and where industries and production plants will have to be located in relation to the people.

There also will have to be wide areas to grow plants and there will have to be radiation shielding and the like.

Because of all this I have problems to imagine the people being concentrated in an area smaller than 10,000 km^2.

For caution I suppose that some areas to grow plants as well as some industries will have to be located between or amidst the people.

Spaceports are required and will have to be a distans of 20 km outside the colony at least.

Next there might be several colonies at different locations – but then it still might be of interest to connect them regarding electricity – if there are nuclear or fusion power plants.

This all means that cables will be required – even if the density of population is as high possible.

Since there are earthian experiences that confirm that a single home can be powered of ist own by solar power this is a way to avoid too much cables – regardless of how close to each other the people live. This would be a way to escape arcing or the negative impacts of arcing on powering the homes. This also will hold regarding power for industries, active radiation shielding etc.

The equipment reuqired to get solar power might be one additional factor that requires the homes etc. to keep a certain distance to each other. This distance might be kept close if an optimal number of homes, bureaus etc. or powered together by one array etc.

It might be possible to place the arrays where nonetheless the area is used for growing plants, industrial activities or the like

This doesn’t mean yet that no long distance cables are required – like I said they even might be required at optimal density of population.

These cables are another factor that might require distances between homes etc. The arcing might involve the homes and people if they are too close to the cables or if the pressure around the cables is too low.

Around 50 km from my home there are two very high tower-like masts where long distance cables are installed close to the top. They are crossing the Elbe. As long as the power is switched on it is impossible for humans to be within a distance to them closer than 15 meters – they would be killed by arcing. This distance will be significant larger on Mars if the cables aren’t in tubes that provide erthain pressure at least.

Obviously some trade-offs are required here.

The edition of Wirtschaftswoche of 12th of February 2007 reported that the german company Trithor, Rheinbach near Bonn, produces cables that concut current without losses at -196 degree Celsius. The article is talking about a super-conducting generator they are used for – but perhaps they can be adjusted and improved for Mars. The very low losses might be a chance to reduce the risk of arcing perhaps – I am personally far from sure if that is so but have in mind that reduction of losses would reduce also the required capacity of the power source regradless of the source being solar, nuclear or fusion.



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Post    Posted on: Wed Apr 11, 2007 3:47 pm
There were two interesting articles under www.wissenschaft.de about findings that might make it easier to generate electricity on Mars.

These findings perhaps might prove to be innovative or to cause innovations.



American scientists have developed a generator that generates electricity by repeatedly bending wires of 10^-6 m length. They are made of Zincoxide and placed under an electrode of silicon. The surface of the elctrode is zackzacked.

The shift of the wires relative to the zickzack of the elctrode by the bending generates a current.

The scientists suppose it to be possible to get 4 Watts per cubecentimeter by an optimized system.

The scientists at present think about to power computerchips, nano-machines or the like this way.

But think about one cubemeter of such systems - since one cubemeter are 1 mio cubecentimeters 4 mio Watts = 4 mW might be got.

This makes me think about martian winds again. According to some articles scientists are explicitly speaking about martian winds. Such winds might cause the movement of the wires perhaps. This is not meant to talk about wind turbines for Mars. The scientists explicitly say that natural movements of the human body would be sufficient to make the system generate power sufficient for medical implantats. This makes me thnk that martian winds also might eb able to bend the wires.

The article refers to Xudong Wang (Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta) et al.: Science, Vol. 316, Page 102



The other article is reporting a finding that might provide a simplification regarding solar power. Several posts ago I have been speaking about something I will do regarding solar cells and another point is that I up to now have no idea what equipment would be required on Mars to produce solar cells there out of martian silicon, martian Regolith. Because of this everathing is sounding as if solar arrays would have to be carried from Earth. The article now is reproting a finding that might be applied on Mras to produce solar cells driectly there.

According to the article there is a fungus that creates its skeletal needles out of the silicon dissolved in the water of the oceans. A team around Daniel Morse, University of Californa in Santa Barbara, succeeded to cause a similar reaction in the lab. The fungus is Tethya aurantia - it uses Silicatein. The scientists now replaced the water of the oceans by an aquatic Zincnitrate solution and the Silicatein by Ammonia. They got solar cells this way that consist of small pieces of glas equipped with a layer of Zinkoxide 100 to 300 nanometers thin.

The article refers to New Scientist, 24. of March 2007, page 32.

There might be the following possibilities:

1. Taking Tethya aurantia to a martian location where water is indicated - poles, ice sea etc. - and enriching the water by silicon and the normal ocean salts.
2. Taking Zincnitrate and Ammonia to Mars if they aren't to be found there and applying them to silicon
3. Gathering martian Zincnitrate and/or Ammonia as well as martian silicon and applying the first two to the last one



...



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Post    Posted on: Mon Jun 25, 2007 11:56 am
The amount of electricity that must be produced on Mars might be reduced perhaps via superconductivity.

The german company Nexans SuperConductors (NSC) in Hürth (Germany) has developed a superconducting wire which can connet nets without transformers.

In Kopenhagen (Danmark) and Columbus/Ohio there are already superconducting wires applied to power those cities or at least parts of them.

Since the temperatures on Mars at present are down to -160° C at night it might be easy to apply superconductivity there because they need to be cooled down by 20° to 40° only and if they are kept subsurface so that they can’t be warmed at daylight.

The artciel published under www.welt.de in May 2007 also mentions that transformers are isolated by oil – this might help to handle the danger of arcing on Mars. But the required amount of oil will be very huge in comparison to those transformers I think. Perhaps the superconducting wires can be of help here also.

Siemens has developed a motor made of superconducting wires according to that article – this would fit into this all.

To me this starts to look like a whole system – in particular because NSC has developed a superconductivity-based electricity-storage also. It is a carbonfiber-strengthened centrifugal mass-storage with superconducting bedding. It can reach 10,000 revolutions per minute and stores 12 kwh then.

It would be interesting to find out if wireless transmission of electricity may be an alternative solution to avoid arcing. This month there was an article under www.welt.de saying that reserachers at the MIT have powered a 60 Watt-lamp wirelessly. The particular required waves have been found. The distance of transmission was around 2 meters. Since at least low-Watt-equipment can be powered this way struggles to reduce the Watts of all equipments to be applied on Mars.

In April there also was an article under www.wissenschaft.de reporting the finding that grass has a photovoltaic efficiency of around 95%. The energy takes the fastest way towards the point it is require at. But the article didn’t say if a way is looked for to apply this for solar power stations – the article is focussed on quantum computers.

Regarding the alternatives to solar power I am wondering about a possible analog to the earthian fossile energy ressources. Think of the finding that fungi not only can survive high doses of radiation but grow the better in ist presence – so what about cultivating huge amounts of fungi at Mars and burning a portion of the amount in conventional power stations?

And there is another finding that may be interesting here – the martian caves that have been found. As far as I understanding the entrances to them have relatively stable temperatures as well as their interiors while the temperatures are changing outside – might they be interesting locations to use temperatures differences? I am thinking about it.

Regarding the martian analog of earthian heat it has been reported in the recent months that the martian core is much cooler than the earthian one. In so far it might be the question if the smaller diameter might outweigh that or not. The temperature is 1,800° C ...



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Post    Posted on: Mon Jul 16, 2007 2:15 pm
Recently there were news about vibration-based power-generation. Just this moment I remember the frequency of impacts on Mars - more than 20 have been found within 9 years - they also should cause vibrations I think. It would be interesting to know data about quakes they cause.

The geneartor developed is only 7 to 8 millimeters high and has an efficiency of 30%. Vibrations of buildings or bridges make small magnets move. The variations of the magnetic field(s) are transformed into current. 30% of the vibration enegry is used. The generator is going to replace batteries in small equipment to measure something.

The material the magnets are mdae of is Neodym-Iron-Bor which is of particular high magnetic force.

The article under www.wissenschaft.de refers to brtish scientists and Steve Beeby (University in Southampton) et al.: NewScientist (Online Service) ( www.newscientisttech.com/article/dn1219 ... tions.html ).

A Remark regarding solar power is also to be made here. One of the recent articles under www.space.com included an official remark by NASA that the present dust storm has reduced the sunlight reaching the surface by 96% but that the solar panels of the rover(s) in the region of the storm are NOT concerned that much - the solar power they get is NOT reduced by 96% but remarkable less. This is because the dust disperses sunlight towards the rover(s). This then also would occur regarding solar cells applied to generate power for a colony.



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Post    Posted on: Wed Jul 25, 2007 2:13 pm
At least one of the articles about the presnet dust storm says that the power of the solar panels is required to heat or warm the elctronics to prevent it from damages.

The activity of the rovers is minimized to save power for this task.

As far as I know and understand it the electronics are exposed without protection to the temperatures of the martian atmosphere.

A human martian colony wouldn't be exposed to those temperatures directly - the people would live in habitats etc. insulated against the extremely cold atmosphere. So solar power would not be required to keep the habitats warm inside to that degree to which it is required regarding the twin rovers. Since obviously the present extremely reduced amount of sunlight is sufficient to heat the electronics it should be possible to use it to provide power to electronics and light diodes in a habitat that doesn't require the warming.

As well the electricity got via solar cells in times between dust storms might be stored instaed of consuming it to warm electronics.

Industries consuming electricity might be kept inside habitats also.

Next to this there is the Zinkoxyde-technology that could be applied during dust storms.

And not to forget - where humans are living the dust is covered by their habitats - that covered dust can't contribute to any dust storm. So a policy of where settlements, martian towns and martian industries to install might be a way to reudce the intensity of dust storms or their number. This then would make the generation of electricity via solar cells on Mars more reliable.



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Post    Posted on: Fri Aug 10, 2007 2:26 pm
The current or most recent dust storm on Mars in between provides interesting data regarding the question if such storms are speaking against using solar power for and by martian colonies - but the experiences and data of course can be used as a base to discus electricity generation for the rovers.

I myself at present go on to consider electricity supply to martian colonies.

First let's have a look to the solar arrays of the rovers. According to "Technologies of Broad Benefit: Power" ( marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/technology/bb_power.html )
Quote:
During the rovers' prime missions, their solar arrays were able to produce about 900 watt-hours of energy per martian day, or sol. Well into the extended mission, efforts to strategically drive Spirit and Opportunity through and to solar-rich areas is providing up to 410 watt-hours per martian sol.
So without the storm(s) at clear skies power was between 410 watt-hours and 900 watt-hours. During the storm power dropped to between 128 watt-hours to 265 watt-hours according to the article "Dust Storm Clears Slightly for Mars Rovers
" ( www.space.com/scienceastronomy/070809_m ... _dust.html ). This article also says that the average power per day was 700 watt-hours. So the storm has dropped the power to 18% to 38% using the data of the article while to 14% to 29% if the upper boundary of the data listed by NASA are applied but to 31% to 65% if the lower boundary is applied.

I am not sure if the average of 410 watt-hours was caused by dust settling on the arrays but if so then the storm seems to have no larger impact than the dust settled.

The percentages are indicating that during a storm twice to eight times such solar arrays would have to be applied the rover are using to keep the power level at clear skies.

At this point I again looked for additional data about the solar arrays of the twin rovers. The document "Mars Exploration
Rover Landings" ( http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/newsroom/merlandings.pdf ) lists
Quote:
Power: Solar panel and lithium-ion battery system providing 140 watts on Mars surface
. I am not sure if the circumstance can be applied that Mars gest four ninth the sunlight available at Earth but if so the solar arrays would provide 315 watts on Earth - much more than the solar panels I can buy round the corner of my appartement. The rovers have an area of around 4 m^2 - so if their solar arrays would be applied to power something immobile I can easyly imagine an 8 such solar arrays applied during a dust storm requiring an area of 8 m^2 to 32 m^2 - 2 meters to 8 meters long and 4 meters wide. They might be foldable then for example.

It's a pity that the comparison between the solar arrays of the rovers, the solar arrays of the ISS and the solar arrays I can buy throughout Germany at present still is too far from safe and sure. But from time to time I am looking for informations about ISS solar arrays. According to "Mir Cooperative Solar Array (MCSA)
Technical Details: Comparison
A Comparison Between the MCSA and the International Space Station Solar Arrays" ( space-power.grc.nasa.gov/ppo/projects/mcsa/isscompare.html ) one solar arrys of the ISS provides 16 kw at a blanket area of 138 m^2. Then 115 to 116 watts per m^2 are got. The solar panels of the twin rovers seem to generate 35 to 47 watts which seems to mean 76 to 106 watts at the distance of Earth. In so far the arrays seem to provide similar amounts of power. In Germany I can buy 190 watt-panels for private purposes - per m^2 this would be not that much more. So it might be perhaps that the numbers of equired solar array area can be applied to the solar arrays of the ISS and those I can buy in Germany also. So since one blanket at the ISS is 32 meters long and 4.3 meters wide for Mars at clear skies 4.25 such arrays would be required to enable everything possible in the ISS. Let's keep the length of 32 meters - then they need to be 18.95 meters wide at Mars. At a martian storm a width of up to 151.6 meters would be required. The length and width could be optimized - and foldabiloity might be provided. Batteries and accumulators might help to reudce the area needed during a dust storm and could be recharged if the area of the array is kept larger than required at clear skies.

Since Mars is uninhabited at present there is more than sufficient area to do like this.



It may be interesting to provide two sets of solar arrays - one covering the other. This would allow to remove that array dust from the storm settles on to clean it. Perhaps the number of arrays should even be 3 or more but this number can be optimized easyly by looking for a critical value of the watts below which it should be cleaned. This idea simply shuld be added to ideas posted earlier like blowing away dust artificially or the shape of a dome.



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Post    Posted on: Sun Aug 19, 2007 4:39 pm
The article „Storm Subsides: Mars Rovers Now Battle Fallout“ ( www.space.com/news/070816_rovers_update.html ) says
Quote:
"Spirit's panels are still cleaner than before the storm...
and – interesting –
Quote:
"Once the dust settles, we can pray for wind," he said. "Not too much, just enough to clean the panels."
.

So NASA obviously count on winds and seem to think that the winds might be too much. Additionaly there is a picture n the rovers website explicitly showing that winds moved dust over several centimeters – I am not that sure but either this or a remark there or in an article looks as if there is wind during the dust storm.

This is looking as if there might be a link between storm and wind. And the wind might drive specialy designed turbines – I have in mind something I didn’t think of earlier and hope to find time for working out it a bit further.

The article „Death-Defying Mars Rovers: Riders in the Storm“ ( http://www.space.com/businesstechnology ... pdate.html ) says that
Quote:
It turns out -- given all that dust flittering about in Mars' atmosphere -- the temperatures don't get nearly as cold at night.


This seems to mean really that there should be winds during such a storm because at the beginning of a storm not the entire planet is engulfed – and then there will be regons of different pressure causing winds. These winds will be stronger than normally because the pressure differences are higher. Would be interesting to use that. Just this moment I also have the idea that those technologies that use vibrations to generate electricity might make use of winds – remember the flattering of hairs, grass and the like during storms or at wind on Earth...

It will be very interesting to measure the martian winds.



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Post    Posted on: Mon Aug 20, 2007 8:26 am
Not sure if it's allready been suggested in this thread, but Zubrin, in his Mars Direct/ Semi-Direct plan, calls for the rocketpropulsion of (i think) oxygen, methane to be produced on Mars, except for the hydrogen which is just a small portion of the mass. Instead of using this as rocketfuel, couldn't this be used for generating electricity? I mean, if it can create the fuel to rocket back to earth, it should be able to make electricity needed for some time.


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