Energy reduction by using direct sunlight for a microalgae photobioreactor for a Mars habitat



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50th International Conference on Environmental Systems


The usage of in situ resources to reduce (re-)supply mass demands for human spaceflight to surfaces of celestial bodies will be a key element in evaluating mission feasibility. Biological components on the Life Support Systems (LSS) can benefit from the use of in situ resources to reduce the required mass. A potential biological component, that would help reduce resupply mass for future missions, is a microalgae photobioreactor. By means of photosynthesis, microalgae use CO2, water, light, and nutrients to provide oxygen and biomass, which can be used as a supplement food source for the astronauts. The Institute of Space Systems at the University of Stuttgart currently investigates microalgae-based biological components for LSS. Critical factors for the system mass of this kind of biological component are a large amount of required water, and the high energy demand, compared to physicochemical systems. For biological systems in a Martian habitat, the overall required energy can be of higher relevance than the system volume, if water can be found on Mars near the landing site and can be made available. This paper investigates the possibility of using direct sunlight as an energy source for such a system, first evaluating the boundary conditions for the system development. Simulations of the lighting concept and experimental data from microalgae cultivation under simulated Mars light conditions are used to model the system. Thermal loads on the system are evaluated as well since the microalgae cultivation should occur within a certain range of temperatures. Different illumination strategies, combining sunlight and artificial illumination, are analyzed, both in the simulations and the laboratory experiments.


Johannes Martin, Institut of Space Systems, University of Stuttgart
Gisela Detrell, Institute of Space Systems - University of Stuttgart
Stefanos Fasoulas, Institute of Space Systems - University of Stuttgart
Andreas Dannenberg, Institute of Space Systems
Reinhold Ewald, Institute of Space Systems
ICES308: Advanced Technologies for In-Situ Resource Utilization
The 50th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held virtually on 12 July 2021 through 14 July 2021.


Mars habitat, Microalgae, Light utilization