The Extraction of Carbon Dioxide from Martian Regolith A Simulation Experiment One of the most critical stages of terraforming is the establishment and maintenance of a stable atmosphere with an appropriate availability of gases necessary for life and its processes. These gases are already available on Mars, but they are trapped in regolith or permafrost. The Extraction of Carbon Dioxide from Martian Regolith A Simulation Experiment Terraforming is the procedure of developing an uncontained planetary biosphere that should be fully habitable by human species (Yang, 2012).
Mars one of the inner terrestrial planets has likely been selected the appropriate candidate for transforming its atmosphere similar to earths. This can be done by Parra-terraforming, which involves constructing a pressurised habitat within a bio dome. Biosphere 2, a previous Parra- terraforming experiment practiced on Earth attempted to create an Earth-like ecosystem within a bio dome. Insufficient amounts of food and oxygen were created due to concrete within the building indirectly removing oxygen (Walker, 2013).
This generates many concerns surrounding similar mistakes during the Mars projects. Parra-Terraforming is much more feasible to accomplish in comparison to full scale Terraforming in terms of cost and resource availability. Full scale Terraforming faces many more challenges and the cost to implement these strategies is massive. Parra-terraforming allows us to build habitable zones where we could use technology to self-sustain human activities.
The chemical abundance of CO2 on Mars is approximately 95. 4% (Figure 2). Plentiful amounts of CO2 are present on Mars, but even more significant quantities are contained within Martian regolith and ice caps (Figure 6) (Ryan, 2011). Knowing how much carbon dioxide is trapped inside of the Martian ice and soil is crucial, because under the right conditions, CO2 willI escape the Martian to start a runaway greenhouse effect which will thicken the atmosphere and warm it by 7 degrees Celsius over 15-20 years (Mckay, 2001; Marinova, 2001).
The further release of carbon dioxide allows the introduction of photosynthetic organisms, thus initiating a carbon cycle and the production of oxygen gas. Carbonate minerals s have been identified in a wide range of localities on Mars as well major permafrost deposits. The release of CO2 either deposits can raise temperatures, but melting permafrost needs higher temperatures. Carbonate rocks can be mined before permafrost to initiate the melting and help to continue build a shield of greenhouse gases to maintain heat.
Mining Carbonate deposits can be done with the following chemical reaction which illustrates a small scale gas extraction procedure: CaCO3(s) + 2HCI(aq) CaCl2(aq) + CO2(g) + H2O(1) Hydrochloric acid would need to be imported from Earth to supply the activities on Mars which acid is reacted with the rocks to generate C02. Calcium carbonate minerals contained within the rocks of Mars have quantities of CO2 which can be extracted using a double displacement reaction. Calcium Carbonate is an alkali, and when mixed with an HCI generates CO2.
During the reaction hydrogen combines with one oxygen part of the Calcium Carbonate to produce H2O. Calcium reacts with the water element to produce an aqueous solution of Calcium Chloride CaCl2, therefor leaving Carbon and Oxygen to combine into Carbon Dioxide CO2 which is product of the visible milky solution seen in the experiment (Figure 3). Aim: To produce Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) from the breakdown of Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3) and find potential uses for bigger projects on Mars. Hypothesis: It is expected Carbon Dioxide will be produced when marble chips are reacted with Hydrochloric Acid.
Variables: Results + Analysis: It was evident Carbon Dioxide (CO2) was produced via observations of the milky solution and fire splint test. The milky substance for what is presumably CO2 mixing with Calcium Hydroxide (Ca(OH)2 (Figure 1). The (Ca(OH)2 turns milky because Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3) precipitates in solution hen it reacts with Calcium hydroxide. When excess CO2 is added, CaCO3 reacts with water and the CO2 forms Calcium Carbonate which is soluble therefor causing the solution to clear out subsequently over time.
This also proves CO2 was present and for a long period of time during the reaction. Quantitative data was not measured due to the lack of time. The amount of gas produced was observed by doing the splint test. The density of carbon dioxide is greater than that of air, thus an inverted gas jar submerged in a water trough was used to collect the gas produced. The splint when lit, burnt brightly and aggressively when in the presence of Oxygen (02) (Figure 4), but when plunged into a jar displaced with CO2 it dimmed completely failing to reignite (Figure 5).
This was further evidence that the production of CO2 was created during the reaction, because it displaced oxygen. During the investigation very few problems were appeared, but many improvements can be created to further aid investigation. The surface area and mass of the marble chips were not measured. Surface area affects the rate at which CO2 will leave the mineral and the mass can be easured to determine how much HCI is used react with Calcium. The Sodium Hydroxide solution when milky could have been observed until clear to possibly predict how much and long it takes for CO2 to leave the marble chips.
These can possibly help implement more efficient ways of generating CO2 on Mars. Calcium Carbonate can be found on Mars in the regolith, carbonate deposits and within the permafrost which is very advantageous for Parra-terraforming (Mckay, 2001; Marinova, 2001). The investigation can be up-scaled and applied to Terraforming practices. Researchers have experimented xtracting minerals using a variety of cyanobacteria, also known as green-blue algae. The photosynthetic bacteria have adapted to the most extreme environments therefor suggesting a capability of surviving and mining Martian Regolith.
The Microbes grow on all different types of rocks and also extract calcium (Choi, 2010). Hydrochloric Acid can be poured in massive amount onto Calcium minerals to release mass amounts of CO2. About 5% of the Martian surface contains calcium minerals and there are many calcium deposits which can be concentrated with HCI (Wang, 2005) (Figure 6). This application will help in the recreation of a thick, warm CO2 atmosphere. The cost of importing HCl and placing it on Calcium deposits would aid the release of CO2, but the process would be to slow and non-efficient.
The process of implementing microbes and then releasing toxic HCI onto the minerals would cost a lot to transport and initiate. Many other methods have been proposed for creating the thick blanket, have been proposed. Figure 6: Extrapolated thickness of the buried CO2 deposit near the south pole of Mars. Red is thicker, and it tapers to zero thickness (black). Ryan, 2011) It is estimated that there may be enough in the subsurface, but can be aided by super greenhouse gases, in particular, perfluorocarbons, are the most efficient and practical way to warm Mars.
This process can take approximately 100 years. If the amount of C02 is frozen in the South Polar Cap and absorbed in the regolith it can result in a thick and warm CO2 atmosphere. This can support various types of plants, microorganisms, and invertebrates. If a planet- wide Martian biosphere converted CO2 into oxygen with an average efficiency equal to that for Earth’s biosphere, it would ake over 100, 000 years to generate similar oxygen levels to Earths (Mckay, 2001; Marinova, 2001). Expanding this practical investigation onto Mars would aid heating up the planet.
Extracting CO2 using this method should only be used in calcium concentrated areas for e. g. calcium deposits can be mined using microbes and the addition of HCI will help generate CO2. This will abundantly release CO2 therefor aiding in melting permafrost therefor further increasing greenhouse effect. A problem with the major release of CO2 is that once we initiate the process, we have no way of stopping it, if CO2 levels melt he permafrost using heat. This can be potentially bad causing acid rain, crushing pressures and melting temperatures, but it’s highly unlikely (Orwig, 2015).
Another thing to consider is the experiment conducted in the laboratory will be majorly different than a massive scale operation. Using HCl to release CO2 in a sizable amount can be dangerous and very expensive in terms of transportation. Plentiful amounts of HCI would need to be imported to react with minerals. Cyanobacteria will also have to be imported to begin the process which would take up lots of space on a rocket ship. The maintenance of both also got to be considered while transporting, because it they are releasing during flight many problems will occur.
It is also important to note that the experiment conducted in the lab will be different than mass scale on Mars. Calcium mining would be hard with heavy wind gusts, sandstorms, radiation level etc. It can be concluded through the experimental investigation, that extracting CO2 using HCl is an effective way of warming the planet only if focused on highly concentrated areas. Required materials for a mass scale project would need to be imported along with more accurate equipment.