This project is solving the Growing Food for a Martian Table challenge. Description
The project aims to achieve a modular, highly scalable, and expandable design with its target destination set to be Mars. Project features a structure that is going to be hold in place by internal pressure and is going to be expandable by integrating modular units together. The internal structure of the deployable unit will feature an array of circular, movable trays, which is going to be 3D printed on Mars using bulk materials transported from Earth.
1) Dome Design
1.1) The greenhouse is going to exist of domes that are constructed on Earth using flexible materials and compressed for transportation, which are going to be inflated using CO2 on Mars following arrival. These domes are going to be shaped like half-sphere shaped roof that is elevated from the ground by walls, not only leveraging the most of the ground area to be used efficiently, but also allowing the innovative rails and tray design to exist within, enabling both horizontal and vertical capacity to be used as efficient as possible. These trays will be stacked and will be mounted on rails, which are going to be layered depending on the expected maximum heights of plants populating the dome. These trays are going to be individually lit via low-power LEDs, which are going to be coloured specifically in order to maximize the photosynthesis on the plants and their leaf colours. These LEDs are going to simulate sun-rise and sun-set periods in their natural habitats on Earth, creating an environment as good as possible for the plants to grow healthily and rapidly. Stack of trays are going to be mounted in a circular manner, column by column, row after row with these rows having close to no space between them, making the best out of the space available in domes. Columns of tray stacks are going to be rotated horizontally on the rails in order to access desired columns and layers of plants.
1.2) Automation: An automated, sensor integrated system will monitor the state of the internal micro-climate of the greenhouse and regulate the variables of the system; in this greenhouse, harvesting is going to take place as a recreational activity that will support the psychological environment that the expeditions will experience. The main feature of our system is the automation of greenhouse operations; a network of readily available consumer grade sensors is going to be operated on efficient and reliable embedded controller boards.
1.3) Sensor Arrays: Monitoring the closed ecosystem through arrays of sensors in a greenhouse in order to keep the environmental variables as close as to the healthy growth conditions required by the vegetation will be done by a net of consumer grade sensors connected to the central controlling board of the unit. These sensor arrays are easy to manage and to maintain; contributing to the high sustainability of the system.
1.4) Control Unit: Using a peer-to-peer connection environment between the control units, and doing so on a unified communications bus, we aim to deploy a one-to-one association between control units and cells, therefore, increasing awareness amongst the units as well providing a redundancy mechanism in case of a controller board failure.
1.5) Regulation: The system will control all lighting, nutritional enrichment, ambient temperature, moisture and O2/CO2 levels within the closed environment, depending on most suitable values for what is being grown.
2) Waste management system of the habitat will be integrated to the domes in indirect manners.
2.1) Solid Waste Management Integration: Collect -> Dry -> Process -> Mix with Martian Soil is the general process of the solid waste management integration. This approach aims to invest in the possibility of creating at the least a low-grade agricultural soil by mixing beneficial waste produced in the settlement to the Martian Soil, en-richening and producing soil that is capable for a vegetative environment to exist. Since creating soil with agricultural value is of utmost importance as current growth techniques in hydroponics are not suitable for indefinite cycling. Another reason for soil enrichment is to be prepared for creating biomass that will be needed as the colony grows.
2.2) Liquid Waste Management Integration: The hydroponics environment necessitates specific conditions for the water cycle. Due to the fact that the water reserve for the greenhouse will not require to be purified to human requirements and, therefore, it will not be needed for the water to be purified unless the reserve water is contaminated with unwanted agents. For such, a reserve line will connect to the purifier of the habitat which will handle purification if necessary.
3) Interfacing units between the greenhouses and the rest of the settlement and other systems.
3.1) Modular Design and Design Features: Firstly, our greenhouses are going to be half-spherical domes. These greenhouses will be produced and compressed before transportation and will be pressurized on Martian Soil. Inside our dome shaped greenhouses, there is going to be a horizontal circular rail system carrying trays of plantation in the hydroponics system, with each column of trays carrying several vertical layers of shelves. The lighting system is going to exist of all LEDs that are in optimal colour to maximize photosynthesis depending on the type of vegetation. These LEDs are going to simulate sun rise and sun set, making vegetation live through its own daily life cycle, again dependent on the type of vegetation. The trays, rail systems, pipes, and shelves will all be printed on site by the 3D printer(s) brought to Mars. This way, it will be possible to customize the inside of a cell with respect to the specific requirement.
3.2) Unit-to-Unit Interfacing: Every single greenhouse dome that is deployed will have its own embedded controller and these will communicate with one another through a unified bus, providing redundancy and also enabling independent deployment. Thus, it will not matter on which end of a mesh of cells connects to. The external shells of the domes will be identical. Each of the four junction points on the domes will feature clean water inlet and contaminated water outlet, which will tap into the water recycling systems of the habitat, power inlets, air inlets and outlets, as well as communication bus access through data interface.
3.3) Unit-to-Habitat Interfacing: Unit-to-habitat interfacing is planned to be made as convenient as possible especially if the habitat units are made of similar inflatable exostructures and/or with similar junction points. Since each greenhouse dome is planned to be self sustainable, it would be sufficient to connect only air inlets and outlets to the habitat units.
4) Production on Mars
4.1) Vegetation: Each dome is designed to be populated with a single type of vegetation since the optimal conditions for each type of plant may differ, as plants are known to compete each other and optimal conditions for one type of plant can be suppressive for another. Nonetheless, several types of vegetation can be planted on the same unit if the optimal conditions for each are close enough to improve efficiency.
4.2) Biomass Generation: It is inefficient and impractical to transport biomass from Earth to Mars to support colonization. Plants can generate biomass on location if CO2, water, and essential minerals are supplied. CO2 is readily present in Martian atmosphere and essential trace minerals can be transported from Earth (or through asteroid miners in the not-so-distant future, maybe). The main bottleneck of this process is water supply; even tough there is water on Mars, but it is difficult to harvest.
4.3) 3D Printing: Most of the structural materials, such as rails, shelves, trays, pipes, and structural support elements can be printed on Mars by the 3D printer(s) brought there. We believe this approach will ease transport of materials to the Mars, and provide some flexibility to the ground teams to tailor equipment to specific needs.
License: GNU General Public License version 3.0 (GPL-3.0)
Source Code/Project URL: http://goo.gl/o07KWp
The Ultimate Greenhouse For Passionete Gardeners - http://www.solardome.co.uk/domestic/dome-uses/greenhouse/
Growing Dome Greenhouse Kits Specifications - http://www.geodesic-greenhouse-kits.com/greenhouse_kit.php
Farming For The Future - http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/livingthings/biofarming.html
Hydroponics - http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/hydroponics?q=hydroponics