On Mars, Silica Aerogel Material Could Be Used To Build Houses And Grow Vegetables

Using silica aerogel as an “insulating blanket” could create a greenhouse effect in the middle latitudes of Mars, where temperatures can reach minus 90 degrees Celsius at night in winter, making parts of the planet habitable, ¬†researchers have proposed. The researchers envision the material as a building material for future human settlements on Mars.

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Carl sagan, an American astronomer and science writer, had the audacious idea of vaporizing the north polar ice cap of Mars, using the greenhouse effect to warm the planet and make it habitable. However, a NASA study last year showed that these ice sheets are far too watery for Mars to have an earth-like atmosphere, leaving little hope of transforming the planet as a whole.

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Researchers at Harvard University, NASA and other institutions have proposed a “localized” solution that USES silica aerogels two to three centimeters thick as “thermal insulation” to create a greenhouse effect and raise regional temperatures. Experiments show that the foam-like translucent material allows visible light to pass through while blocking harmful ultraviolet radiation. On Mars, when illuminated by sunlight, the material can reach temperatures of up to 65 degrees Celsius, enough to melt ice into water. The results are published in the new issue of the British journal nature astronomy.

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Co-author Laura kebel, a scientist at NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory, says this approach to building habitable zones allows people to “transform” Mars on a manageable scale. The team next plans field tests in mars-like dry and cold conditions in Chile’s atacama desert and Antarctica’s McMurdo dry valley.

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But lead author, robin, assistant professor of environmental science and engineering at harvard wadsworth, said it also faces some challenges of engineering, such as according to the current climate models, to transport a large number of aerogel to Mars, and pass by at least 4 years , Mars to form permanent liquid water area.