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Inspired by science fiction and a strange phenomenon on the Martian surface, researchers have discovered a way that Earth life could survive on the red planet.
A team of scientists at Harvard University, the University of Edinburgh, and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have found that a material called aerogel can trap enough heat from sunlight to create regions of liquid water and Earth-like temperatures on Mars. This technology, they say, could be adapted to build human habitats in the not-so-distant future.
Study - Researchers - Layer - Translucent - Aerogel—just
In a new study, the researchers show that placing a thin layer of a translucent aerogel—just a few centimeters thick—atop Mars' surface could heat the ground by up to 50 degrees Celsius, or 90 degrees Fahrenheit, or more. This would be enough to thaw water previously frozen underground, providing the crucial ingredient to support life.
Just like carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, the aerogel allows visible light to pass through and warm up the ground, but makes it harder for infrared light—which humans cannot see, but experience as heat—to escape. Thanks to its unique structure, aerogel produces a much more efficient greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide.
Structure - Pockets - Liquid - Liquid - Air
"Jelly [is] a structure [made] of a solid filled with [tiny pockets of] liquid. If you suck out all the liquid and replace it with air, you get an aerogel," said Laura Kerber, a research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
These air pockets are the key to heating up Mars. "Air is really bad at conducting heat, but it usually moves around and brings heat from place to place. But since [in the aerogel] it's trapped in all these tiny pockets, then [the air] can't mix around, and that makes it a great insulator," she said. A similar type of aerogel is used to insulate the Curiosity rover currently exploring Mars, as well as deep sea...
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