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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: Tue Aug 21, 2007 1:23 pm
The Mars direct plan does propose using some of the methane to power rovers, but the plan also calls for a nuclear reactor to power the methane production plant. It takes energy to make methane from CO2 and hydrogen. So the methane is not an energy source in the plan, it is just an energy storage medium. The nuclear reactor is the ultimate power source.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Oct 08, 2007 2:29 pm
Hello, Stefan,

Your idea regarding the fuel cells I find very helpful since there will be traffic between Earth and Mars nonetheless once Mars is colonized. What about the idea to make use of the solar wind going down to the martian surface for such purposes?

If that can be done then during dust storms water could be split ti generate electricity later when the oxygen and the hydrogen are used by fuel cells.

So this could be another component of the system of sources – and there is another interesting point already mentioned in another thread: During dust storms the temperature doesn’t drop that much at night as it does when there is no dust storm. This would save a bit of electricity during a dust storm – accumulators etc. wouldn’t be discharges that much and fuel cells might be good backups then.

Might it be possible to apply the greenhouse effect of the storms to generate additional energy? What about the temperature differential between the non-storm-time and the storm-time?

Regarding the efficiency of solar cells Wirtschaftswoche reported on 24th of September this year that the company Azur Space Solar Power in Heilbronn (Germany) produces solar cells of 30% efficiency – applied by satellites. But the real interesting news the article is telling is that the company Sol3G in Barcelona (Spain) applies those cells together with Fresnel-lenses. The lenses cause a 380fold concentration of the sunlight. The result is that the required amount of solar cells is reduced by 50% at unchanged amounts of electricity generated.

So the earlier got areas solar arrays would require on Mars would be reduced to 50%.

Hello, Andy Hill,

I remember that you already said in a post of this thread that solar cells of 40% efficiency are under development or going to be produced in the US – so it would be interesting to apply the Fresnel lenses to those solar cells.



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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 19, 2007 3:34 pm
To have a look back onto some recent results:



1. During a dust storm the temperatures don’t fall at night as much as they do when the skies are clear
2. Solar arrays still generate energy during a dust storm –
but less.
3. As a consequence not as much as energy/electricity needs to be
consumed to keep a certain temperature
4. Batteries and accumulators really are assisting at night and even
during a dust storm



These are the experiences got by the twin rovers even during a dust storm. The situation will be improved by improved solar arrays that also use Fresnell lenses.



But the result for the dust storm means that accumulators will not be as much discharged during a dust storm at night as they are at night and clear skies. May be that a portion of the consumption of the electricity they store is shifted from night to daylight only during dust storms.



This seems to be worth another look onto accumulators. At present news to be read in the actual edittion of Wirtschaftswoche is catching my attention - the talk isn't about accumulators actually but about a storage or container for warmth to enable solarthermal power plants to deliver
electricity even at night or when the skies are cloudy - which might be interesting during martian dust storms also.



Solarthermal powerplants on Mars I personally can imagine to be enabled by larger lenses and providing dense atmospheres between those lenses and the water to be heated – the dense local atmosphere will have to cause a grennhouse effect.



The storage for the warmth got in such a power plant is meant as a buffer - and on Earth there are three solarthermal power plants under construction at present that will have such a buffer - 50 MW-plants in Andalusia/Spain. Water is going to be turned into steam directly by the solar warmth - without oil.



The buffer has been developed by the DLR – Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (German Center for Aeroinautics and Space) .




The buffer is designed like a sandwich. The storages are layers of nitrates that are separated by graphite fibers that quickly absorb and later give away the warmth again.



A 100 KW-prototype seems to have passed a test successfully and a ten times larger storage is under construction.



This way future solarthermal power plants will be enabled to deliver electricity round the clock.



On Mars there seem to be lots of salt. Perhaps it is possible to use those salts like the nitrates - and this way to get martian ISRU-based storages for warmth.



Then it would be possible to get electricity during dust storms. And this would be an enrichment of the power sources considered in this thread already as well as an enrichment of the power storages
considered.





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Post    Posted on: Sun Jan 20, 2008 1:16 pm
In between I read an article under www.welt.de this year saying that in Sweden a "new" technology is going to be applied to heat a bureau building. In the surroundings of that building there is an underground boulevard or the like where lots of people are going and passing all day long. Up to now that underground boulevard has windows allow the warmth of all the people to dissipate. Those windows will be replaced by a system capable of taking over all the warmth radiated by the people and directing it into that building to heat it. If that would be done on Mars also by a larger colony electricity required to provide warmth to the colony might be less.

Another news I read about that might be interesting is that scientists in between have produced the darkest and blackest material ever. It is a nanocarbontube absobing 99.9% of light. This also is reported by an article under www.welt.de . The article says that the researches have said explicitly that it is of interest for solar panels and solar cells- It is unknown yet of they can absorb infrared or UV too.

Regarding solar cells in general Wirtschaftswoche is reporting abut the german company Concentrix two we

ekends now. They apply Fresnel-lenses to concentrate light 380fold and achieve an efficiency of 35% - after 16% before. at a complete solarmodule of 150 cells the efficiency still is 26%. According to the company the costs of soöar electricity and those of conventional electricity are approaching each other quickly. The investment into a new plant in Freiburg im Breisgau is significantly less than Euro 20 mio.

CEO Karl Friedrich Haarburger is quoted to have said that by using cells produced for space theoretically cane be pushed to an efficiency of 60% - if I understand really correct. Heat is removed by copper - the cells warm up to maximum 70 degree Celsius which they can bear long times.



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Post    Posted on: Sun Jan 20, 2008 1:27 pm
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
In between I read an article under www.welt.de this year saying that in Sweden a "new" technology is going to be applied to heat a bureau building. In the surroundings of that building there is an underground boulevard or the like where lots of people are going and passing all day long. Up to now that underground boulevard has windows allow the warmth of all the people to dissipate. Those windows will be replaced by a system capable of taking over all the warmth radiated by the people and directing it into that building to heat it. If that would be done on Mars also by a larger colony electricity required to provide warmth to the colony might be less.


Sounds to me like a heat-pump, commonly used in Scandinavia for heating the houses, which is just a reversed fridge.


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Post    Posted on: Sat May 24, 2008 12:01 pm
The article "Life Found Where You Least Expect It" ( www.space.com/scienceastronomy/080522-a ... robes.html ) is reporting an aspect that might contribute a little bit to the chances to reduce the amount of electricity required by a colony on Mars. The article says that
Quote:
The answer came in the form of tiny microbes that reacted with the rocks and then gave off heat. It wasn't much — just enough to raise the overall temperature and make the environment more liveable.


So perhaps it might be interesting to think about subsurface habitats below the rocky surface. If there are martian microbes living of rocks they might produce heat like those beneath the Rio Tinto and so that heat wouldn't have to be produced consuming electricity. If there are no martian microbes earthian microbes might be taken there.

But of course it must be doubted if that difference would be felt. It simply might contribute a very little bit. Perhaps the "bit" is the larger the deeper inside the surface the habitats are installed. This also would mean that the habitats are the closer to the warm martian core,

In the thread about scouts I indirectly quoted an article about Tumbleweede-like robots for Mars. That article suggested martian winds as an energy source somehow. I'll try to find it and look that up.

An article of the edition of 25th of February 2008 of the german journal Wirtschaftswoche was reporting about another way to generate electricity that would allow to rely on martian ISRU. The article tells that fuek cells. I am not sure if it is a mix of gases of high performance are short nearly matured for the market in between. Those fuel cells are NOT based on hydrogen though - they apply Methanole. As Space.com for example has reported several times there is Methane on Mars. This could be turned into Methanole using martian Oxygen (to be got from martian CO2, H2O2, acids or water). Of course Hydrogen-based fuel cells are possible via ISRU also but Methanole doesn't evaporate that easyly. I have no idea though how easyly or difficult Methanole might be produced on Mars in comparison to Hydrogen. Because Mars seems to be rich in acids I would prefer the acids as source of oxygen but at present I don't know how hard this might be - I simply have in mind to avoid excessive consumption of martian water for such purposes. One other argument against getting Oxygen from acids may be that alternatively the Oxygen and Hydrogen of acids may be used to increase the amounts of water available for a colony on Mars.

The prototype of that Methanole-based fuel cell at the Reserach Center Jülich (Germany) has a performance of 2 kw. A "Gabelstapler" (don't know the english word right now) made by the company Jungheinrich was driving around 500 hours using that prototype. The next target of development is 3000 hours. Might be interesting for ISRU-based rovers and robots also!

The Research Center Jülich is working with a private partner that might produce those fuel cell for the market - it's the german company Ritter Elektronik in Remscheid.

Another article of Wirtschaftswoche - dating from 10th of May 2008 - tells that the residence of the japanese Primeminister has a fuel cell power plant in its cellar. It is an experimental one has a performance of 1 kw only. It's consuming Natural Gas - again martian ISRU is possible it seems since I remember that Natural Gas is Methane. I am not sure if it is a mix of several gases that partially would have to be produced on Mars - but Methane evaporates faster ans easier than Methanole and it might be harder on Mars to create and keep the pressure required to store liquid Methane in bottels.

The Methane-based fuel cells in that residence have an efficiency of 39% and reduce the energy requirements by 22%. The warmth is used to heat the residence as well as to get warm water.

To be as interesting as other ISRU-sources of electricity on Mars - solar power, solar wind, dust, warmth of the core, winds etc. - the Methanole or Methane would have to got back somehow. Perahsp this might be done using the solar wind or solar power.

Last let's turn to accumulators a bit. There was another and longer article in the Wirtschaftswoche of 21st of April 2008 reporting about the current state of development. According to that article there will be a breakthrough very soon. Lithium-ion-accumulators of themost recent concept have alifetime of up to 10 years, can be recharged 1000s of times and have sufficient capacity to enable a electric car to go 100 km and farther. So they seem to be interesting for martian rovers but in particular for a colony since driving around will consume more electricity than light, computers and the like.

The article says that the german-french-american consortium Johnson Controls Saft in between has started the production of Lithium-ion-accumulators for cars - in the southwestfrench town Nersac. They can reduce the consumpion of gasoline by 30%. The capacity of production is 350,000 Lithum-ion-cells per year with a charge-storage of up to 45 Ampere-hours - sufficient for 10,000 batteries. As is said in the article such batteries will be lighter than Nickle-metalhydride-accumulators by 40%.

There is a short table saying that the Lithium-ion-accumulators will have cell-voltage of 3.6 to 3.8 Volt, a storage-capacity of 120 to 200 kwh/kg and cost 800 Euros per kwh - going to be reduced very steeply at mass production.

Sounds interesting regarding Mars to me.



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Post    Posted on: Sat May 31, 2008 5:18 pm
In between I found the article about Tumbleweed1. It explicitly says that on Mars there are winds blowing at velocities of up to 160 km/h and that those winds would enable a light spherical robot to go huge distances. JPL is quoted to have found by analyses that they could go thousands of kilometers. Since Tumbleweed1-like robots have a diameter of 2 m and thus are of double the size of true natural tumbleweeds this seems to mean that martian winds are sufficiently strong to move such objects.

Now take into account that they are rolling along the martian ground - which means friction. So this seems to mean that martian wind have sufficient energy for this. Then they also have sufficient energy to generate electricity a similar way. May be that martian wind turbines would have to be Tumbleweed1-like - in that case the Tumbleweed1-like "turbines" don't need to touch the ground. Then they could be moved by the winds easier. Next the axles of such a turbine might have less friction than on Earth since gravity is less and perhaps electromagnetism could do more.

I still have in mind another idea how wind might be used but didn't find the time to work it out a bit.

The article lists an interesting and informative link: mars.jpl.nasa.gov/spotlight/tumbleweedAll.html .



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Post    Posted on: Sat Jun 07, 2008 11:32 am
The Max-Planck-Institut für Kolloid- und Grenzflächenforschung has constructed muscles based on plants. They react to humidity. Those muscles are going to be used for microscopic actuators doing mechanical work. They might be applied to measure humidity - and thus avoid electronics. This in turn would reduce the required amount of electricity a bit.

The muscles consist of a wood of silicon-needles of 0.005 to 0.008 mm length. Between them there is a hydrogel that trun them to the side once it is dried.

The question regarding this seems to be how much such muscles might be applied on Mars instead of electronics. The humidity can be provide though - the actuators may be applied inside habitats and the like.

Next a thought came up to me that a real local carbon-cycle might be etsablished. If CO2 is split via the solar wind the carbon and the oxygen got can be burnt in a carbon power plant. The regot CO2 can be split again and thus resued to generate electricity - again and again. There may remain heat of that power plant that isn't optimally used - this can be used to heat habitats. This would reudce the amounts of electricity required to keep habitats warm.



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Post    Posted on: Fri Jun 13, 2008 3:37 pm
I obviously forgot to mention my main idea regrading the plant-based muscles. For equipment consuming very low amounts of electricity such muscles perhaps might be a source of electricity - as humidity changes the muscles are moving. What about using this extremly small movements to generate electricity for sensors, CPUs, electronics?

Two other details regarding accumulators and batteries I don't know if I already posted them.

1. Lithium-Ion accumulators are risky at thermal stresses. Of course such stresses are less probable on Mars but Wirtschaftswoche reported last autumn that a team around the scientist Andreas Gutsch has developed a separator that is ceramic as well as flexible which turns the accumulators safer AND more efficient.

2. The company Varta Microbattery (Ellwangen/Germany) has developed a Lithium-Polymere-battery. It doesn't require a hull, is flexible, can be shaped as desired and can be inserted into smallest equipments. It costs a few Euros only. I don't know if they are rechargeable.

I am thinking a bit if combinations between such accumulators and batteries and the muscle-idea as well as other "power plants" of that small scale may be possible.



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Post    Posted on: Sat Jun 21, 2008 4:52 pm
In January 2007 there was an article in Wirtschaftswoche reporting about a prototype of a plug-in--hybrid car developed by General Motors. The car is called Chevrolet Volt- It has an electromotor of 120 kw (161 PS) powered by a Lithium-Ion-Battery with a charging-capacity of 16 kwh. There also is a gasoline-motor but this is applied only to recharge the battery. That car can go up to 60 km powered by that battery and may be on the markets in 2010 - less than 3 years from now - provided there is an efficient Lithium-Ion-battery on the market then too. The US-company !23 Sytems thinks to offer such a battery soon. It is going to be based on the so-called Nanophosphate-technology.

So there seems to be an innovation which might be interesting for Mars also because of the capacity.

Another article of Wirtschaftswoche dating from April 2007 tells about a progress regarding fuel cells. They are working by biogas got from a water decontamination plant (Kläranlage in German - the translation may be wrong). Such contamination plants I suppose to be required in a martian colony as well since the people living in that colony will drink, eat and cause bio-waste including bacteria. So such fuel cells might open up the chance to link unavoidable waste and the required electricity - something similar to recycling.

The fuel cell reported has a performance of 280 kw and an efficiency of 50%. It is intended to apply the process-warmth to heat the buildings of the plant and the socalled "Faulturm" where the biogas is originating from. On Mars this may reduce the required amount of electricity for heating habitats or even the entire colony. The fuel cell is called HotModule and achieves a temperature of 650 degrees C. The fuel cell has been tested successfully already. It has been developed by CFC Solutions in Munich.

In te same edition of Wirtschaftswoche there is an article saying that cost reductions of silicon, silicon crystals and solar cells are going to reduce the costs of solar power in the coming years. The transformers for turning the current into current for the net also are going to become cheaper while the efficiency is going to be increased.

The german company Würth Solar has developed solar modules that not only generate electricity but also protect houses against rain. The solar cells are CIS-cells free of silicon - they are brick-like and made for roofs. Of course it doesn't rain on Mars - but protection against dry ice particles as well as water ice particles may be required perhaps. And it may be that particles falling on habitats melt or sublime by heat coming from inside the habitats. Because of this there may be liquid water on a habitat for a very short time...

I feel invited to look for links between the ideas etc. posted in this thread already because there is the possible link between the fuel cells and biological waste and heat for the habitats - but this takes longer time I suppose.



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Post    Posted on: Sun Jun 22, 2008 1:35 am
Speaking of electric cars, I was thinking about making car battery powered moped. All I need is car battery, an electric motor and power control. The way I am thinking its more convinient than public transport cheaper than petrol and it conviniently bypasses motor vehicle licencing...

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Post    Posted on: Sun Jun 22, 2008 11:04 am
Horus wrote:
Speaking of electric cars, I was thinking about making car battery powered moped. All I need is car battery, an electric motor and power control. The way I am thinking its more convinient than public transport cheaper than petrol and it conviniently bypasses motor vehicle licencing...


I would use a a couple of rechargable dry-cells rather than a standard car battery as this would mean you can use a higher voltage motor more easily and need less current which would be easier to control. Also using a number of smaller batteries would enable easier location on a frame rather than a single big battery.

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Post    Posted on: Fri Jun 27, 2008 7:44 pm
The two recent post are suggesting me to martian rovers using Lithium Ion Accumulators. But I didn't have looks to their weights up to now.

Regarding power consumption there was an article of Wirtschaftswoche at the end of November 2007 reporting about energy saving lamps they consume 30% less electricity than usual lamps. Another laternative reported about are compact "Leuchtstoff"-lamps (German).

Of course I don't assume that they are as interesting as light diodes but I at present have in mind brightness - at night outside the habitats for example. Since the atmosphere is much thinner it doesn't disperse light as much as the arthian atmosphere does which might increase the required brightness and amount of lamps applied outside in the martian environment.

Another article of that journal published in October 2007tells of a power plant consuming waste to generate electricity. A martian colony also will produce some waste. The power plant mixes waste with water. the mix than goes into a bio-reactor where it is turned into sugar by enzymes. Next the sugar is turned into Ethanole. The parts of waste that can't be used are turned into pelets which next are burnt using Ethanole and 10$ Diesel. This is done in a generator producing electricity.

Such a power plant has been tested already - the tes version can generate 60 kw which is said to be the daily requirement of three private households or a little military camp.

The waste applied is waste genearted by households - so there seems to be a next loop.

The problem seems to be Diesel since it can't be supposed to exist on Mars and must be brought elsewhere. But maybe one day hydrocarbones are brought from Titan. Then a portion of it could be brought to Mars and turned into Diesel (remember posts in the ISRU-technology thread...)



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Post    Posted on: Fri Jul 04, 2008 5:52 pm
An article of the most recent edition of the german journal Wirtschaftswoche is telling that at present a solar module of 2 m^2 area producing 1 kw electricity including peripherals costs Euros 4000. So at present sufficient solar modulaes for Mars would require millions - or even billions since a martian colony would be inhabited by thousands or one or a few millions of people. But the production costs of the modules have been reduced by 30% during the recent five years. But the CEO of Q-Cells in Thalheim, Germany (Saxonia-Anhalt) estimates a potential of further reductions of 40% to 50%. The norwegian producer REC estimates the production costs of solar generated electricity in southern countries in 2012 to be at 5 EuroCent per kwh.

According to the article there is a 64mw-power plant in Nevada based on generation of steam by solar warmth. All over the world similar plants of 9000 mw are under construction or planned. To me this seems to assist the process of maturing and getting experiences a martian colony could have ad vantages from. And in particular technological innovations and inventions may become available that are Mars-fit really.

Regarding wind energy the article reports that generators are under development that weigh less than the half of the existing ones. Those new generators apply high temperature super-conductors. This progress seems to be of significant advantages on Earth since they remove the requirement of fundaments on sea - swimming platforms anchored at the sea ground will be sufficient. This advantage may be of meaning on Mars also - but I am turning the focus from wind energy to those generators this moment because I am wondering if they might be applied for other sources of electricity also.

Another point might be interesting fro those who still prefer to use nuclear reactors on Mars. A commision of the federal government of Germany recommends Thorium which can be used by particular special reactors. The interesting aspect for posters or readers preferring nuclear reactors for Mars is that the article says that there is five times as much Thorium on Earth as Uranium. This might mean that it is available five times as long as Uranium if the consumed amounts would be constant. If I remember correct this would be more than 500 years - may be interesting but to keep the colony for ever this would be no alternative since the colony should survive beyond the time when Earth runs out of Thorium etc..

Regarding the Thorium-based power plants there is another aspect that might be linked to the loops I mentioned. The reactors are cooled by Helium and achieve temperatures of up to 900° C. according to the article this is sufficient to split Methane into Hydrogen and Carbonmonoxyde. This can be pumped to a power plant where they react again by assistance of a catalyst. This results in Methane again which next can be split another time by the Thorium reactor...



Another article tells in short that the company Clariant, Frankfurt (Germany), has developed the material Elastopor. This material avoids bridges of frigid. This avoids 50$ of the costs of heating according to Clariant (quoted by the article). This seems to be interesting for Mars and might reduce the amounts of electricity required to keep habitats warm there.



By the way - that edition of Wirtschaftswoche also talks about Methane-hydrates and just this moment the idea came up to me by that that such hydrates might exist beneath the martian surface also (might they be the source of the Methane detected?) - if so there may be very lots of ressource...



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Post    Posted on: Fri Jul 04, 2008 6:36 pm
A wind turbine using a super conductor based generator might be a good idea for use on Mars.

I seem to remember that modern day super conductor materials work at much higher temperatures than when the original phenomina was seen. Perhaps they would work in the relatively colder temperatures on Mars without any additional refrigeration.

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