Mars mission could ease Earth's energy supply crisis

Jun 09, 2009

Techniques and instrumentation initially developed for ExoMars - Europe’s next robotic mission to Mars in 2016 - but now due to fly on a NASA mission in 2018, could also provide the answers to the globally pressing issue of energy supply.

A major study by the Imperial College London, funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), aims to use this new technology as an inexpensive and efficient way to help process unconventional energy resources, potentially having an enormous impact on the UK and global economy.

Professor Mark Sephton from Imperial’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering, said: “The research involves using extraction-helping materials, called surfactants, to liberate organic matter from rock in space to gain a deeper understanding into the biological environment on Mars. We aim to show that the same technique could also be used to recycle the prodigious amounts of water necessary to process tar sand deposits and turn them into conventional petroleum.”

Usable energy resources are essential to the .  Conventional crude oil is a staple energy resource and accounts for over 35% of the world’s .  As the demand for oil exceeds supply, focus has now turned to trying to tap unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands. However, these unconventional fossil fuels must be extracted and upgraded to match the characteristics of more conventional oil deposits and make them commercially viable. The extraction process requires substantial amounts of water which is then left contaminated for extended periods of time. In just hours, the new technology can strip this water of its oily contaminants, removing a bottleneck in the refining process.

 “Our new technology is an inexpensive approach that can be used to reduce the water demand during treatment of this type of unconventional hydrocarbon deposit,” said Professor Sephton. “Moreover, these extraction helping materials are environmentally harmless to the extent that they are edible. Our research at Imperial College combines first rate scientific investigation with practical engineering design.”

Dr Liz Towns-Andrews, Director of Knowledge Exchange at STFC, which is funding the study through its Knowledge Exchange Follow on Fund award scheme, added, “This is a truly valuable study which will not only reveal more about our neighbour Mars, but could also deliver enormous benefits here on Earth. The new research is a direct solution to our worsening energy supply crisis and is a great example of the seamless interaction of pure and applied science with engineering to solve real world environmental and commercial issues.  Professor Sephton’s work is well aligned with the current needs of industry and we believe that this ambitious project could be of great benefit to the UK economy.”

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User comments : 12

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Shootist
5 / 5 (3) Jun 09, 2009
This is one of the few "environmental" articles I've read recently that doesn't purport impending doom. Well done and rational. Thank you.
holoman
1 / 5 (5) Jun 09, 2009
There is a supply of energy for the planet
for next 4,000 years but cannot disclose
this new source.
gopher65
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 09, 2009
*points up to article* THIS is why we need to fund space exploration. You don't get technological development in one area simply by pouring money into that area. You get it by researching adjacent or even unrelated areas.

To give two of the countless space and general science research projects that turned into applications that affect our lives immeasurably: many of the new cancer treatments from the past few decades came directly from abstract physics experiments (which anti-science people tried to have cancelled, because "physics experiments have no practical value), and digital cameras were invented for specifically for Hubble.
Arkaleus
5 / 5 (2) Jun 09, 2009
Well done Physorg! This is what science is all about.
Mike22
1 / 5 (2) Jun 09, 2009
Unbelievable. Unless we stop burning the oil the earth is doomed.
Arkaleus
4 / 5 (4) Jun 09, 2009
Mike22, go clang your bell on the corner with all the other street prophets. Not a single green maniac will ever practice what they preach. No one will make themselves poorer, hungrier, and less free for the "fantastic" promise of eco-marxism.
nkalanaga
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 09, 2009
No, the Earth won't be harmed a bit if we run out of oil. It will continue to exist, just as it did before humans appeared. If we haven't developed some substitute, our civilization will certainly end. And we WILL run out of petroleum, eventually, regardless of how deep we search. A finite planet can only hold a finite amount of oil, and we're burning it faster than nature is making it.
brant
1 / 5 (4) Jun 09, 2009
Baloney. We have the technology to enable everyone to have a personal power unit. A PPU would enable you to run your house, charge your car, make food, transport whatever without interference from corporate interests. We dont need anything except to live and explore personal growth.

The idea the we need to go anywhere to make technology to get energy is total crap.

Now if you want to say lets go to Mars for science and to explore because we have PPU that will power a space craft, I'm onboard.

Yo, where's my Jetsons Future?
The PPU would make it possible.
GaryB
5 / 5 (3) Jun 10, 2009
Re: Holoman>
[[ There is a supply of energy for the planet
for next 4,000 years but cannot disclose
this new source.]]

Hot air?
KBK
3 / 5 (2) Jun 10, 2009


We Don't Need Gasoline, Never Did

Facts: Scientific and historical about gasoline and alcohol

1. The original automobiles ran on alcohol because when they were invented gasoline was not available.

2. Rockefeller spent $4 million (that we know of) to promote Prohibition, a ban on alcohol manufacturing in the US that started in 1919 just as the car industry was taking off.

3. When Prohibition was lifted in 1933, gasoline stations were ubiquitous and most engines ran on gasoline only.

4. Alcohol can be manufactured locally and on a community level from renewable plant material for $1 per gallon.

5. The growing of plant material for alcohol would have no effect on the price of food.

6. The growing of plants for fuel would more than neutralize the carbon created by burning alcohol for fuel.

7. In Brazil, over 50% of new cars sold can already run on 100% alcohol.

8. Producing alcohol from plant material is incredibly energy efficient.

9. The oil companies aggressively promote garbage science to deceive the public into believing that alcohol fuels: a) will cause starvation, b) are uneconomical, and c) are net polluters.

10. Gasoline is a high toxic material.

11. It is entirely unneeded to fuel our cars.

12. Oil companies like Chevron have pressured PBS, commercial TV networks and other news media to keep this basic information from the public for decades - and the censorship continues to this day.

More at PermaCulture
Shootist
5 / 5 (1) Jun 10, 2009
There is no energy supply crisis.
nkalanaga
5 / 5 (1) Jun 10, 2009
KBK, I agree. But as it stands, we don't have production facilities for alcohol, so are dependent on oil. If we switched to biofuels, we wouldn't need the oil for fuel, but so far, we haven't switched. We do have an energy crisis, but it's our fault, for becoming dependent on a single source.