Scientists find ways to make Mars more habitable through Silica aerogel
17 July, 2019, 18:38 | Author: Darnell Taylor
According to their theory, regions of Martian surface could be made more habitable by using the material silica aerogel, the material being an equivalent to Earth's atmospheric greenhouse effect. They found a silica aerogel layer 2 to 3 centimeters thick could boost the temperature of the underlying surface by 50 degrees Celsius, to above the melting point of water.
Silica aerogel is known for being incredibly insulating and it protected the electronic instruments on the Mars Spirit and Opportunity rovers from extreme temperature shifts. However, it's unfeasible to warm a whole planet this way-previous outcomes have already proven that there isn't sufficient carbon dioxide on Mars to terraform it with at present's technology.
"Mars is the most habitable planet in our Solar System besides Earth". "But it remains a hostile world for many kinds of life".
"Everything is expensive when it comes to sending missions to Mars, so if you are serious about creating habitable conditions there, you want to consider making the most of the incredible constraints on resources you have to face", Wordsworth said.
Schematic of the solid-state greenhouse habitability concept for Mars: a thin translucent layer of low-thermal-conductivity material transmits visible light, but blocks UV and infrared, directly replicating the radiative effects of Earth's atmosphere; the depth of the habitable region in the subsurface increases with time due to thermal diffusion; Tav is the average surface temperature.
SpaceX is gearing up to head over to Mars in a few years and NASA's moon missions are now seen as a stepping stone tot he Red Planet.
Unlike Earth's polar ice caps, which are made of frozen water, polar ice caps on Mars are a combination of water ice and frozen CO2.
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"We started thinking about this solid-state greenhouse effect and how it could be invoked for creating habitable environments on Mars in the future", said Wordsworth.
"Silica aerogel is a promising material because its effect is passive", Kerber explained.
"If you're going to enable life on the Martian surface, are you sure that there's not life there already?" The key question was: are there enough greenhouse gases and water on Mars to increase its atmospheric pressure to Earth-like levels? Because of its properties, just a few-centimeter-thick layer can transmit the visible light that a plant would use for photosynthesis, block risky ultraviolet radiation, and heat the area beneath it.
An artist's impression of a terraformed Mars.
Silica aerogel is very fragile and porous; layering it within another translucent material, or combining it with flexible materials, could prevent fracturing.
Spread across a large enough area, silica aerogel gets right to work warming the planet's surface to create a permanent reserve of liquid water below.
The scientists now plan field tests with aerogel shields at places such as the Atacama Desert in Chile and the Antarctic Dry Valleys.
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