Robin Wordsworth from Harvard University collaborated with Ronald L Kerber from California Institute of Technology and Charles Cockell from the University of Edinburgh, among other scientists, to produce the research project released in a report on Nature Astronomy.
The trio devised the “silica aerogel greenhouse shields” to transform the surface of Mar, which has low temperatures and high-ultraviolet radiation levels, so that it could be suitable for farming. The system is intended as a simple way to warm the ground, melt the ice, and make it suitable environment for plants.
Shields would replicate greenhouse effect
The shields would be made from silica aerogel, a transparent material with a low-thermal conductivity. Spreading them across the planet’s surface would mimic the greenhouse effect by trapping heat that would warm the ground below.
A thin layer of silica aerogel, which is a gel but is made up 97 cent air instead of liquid, would be enough to raise the temperature of the Martian surface to above the melting point of water.
It would also block hazardous ultraviolet radiation and allow enough visible light for photosynthesis to occur.
“Mars could be made habitable to photosynthetic life”
“We show that widespread regions of the surface of Mars could be made habitable to photosynthetic life in the future via a solid-state analogue to Earth’s atmospheric greenhouse effect,” said the team.