Theoretical bioreactor design to perform microbial mining activities on Mars

R. Volger, M. J. Timmer, J. Schleppi, C. N. Haenggi, A. S. Meyer, C. Picioreanu, A. Cowley, B. A. E. Lehner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Transporting materials from Earth to Mars is a significant logistical constraint on mission design. Thus, a sustained settlement will be enhanced if it can perform elemental extraction and utilization in situ. In this study, all requirements to test a novel, biological approach for in situ resource utilization (ISRU) are conceptualized. We present designs for two bioreactor systems to be incorporated in a Mars habitat. The first system is a standard algae bioreactor which produces oxygen and biomass. The second bioreactor is capable of taking in Martian regolith and extracting enhanced iron ores from it via biological processes. Additionally, we propose the use of the leftover iron-poor but biomass rich material in a plant compartment. The multiple, different compartments feed into each other, creating an interconnected process enhancing self-sufficiency. In this paper, computational fluid dynamics of mixing behavior under reduced gravity, a breakdown of the process flow for a biological ISRU approach and exploratory in silico evaluation of the feasibility are presented.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354-364
Number of pages11
JournalActa Astronautica
Volume170
Early online date3 Feb 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

Keywords

  • Algae
  • Biomining
  • Bioreactor
  • ISRU
  • Iron
  • Space exploration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering

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