http://mashable.com/2015/03/08/dry-ice-mars/

A mission to Mars has captured the public’s imagination and the possibility of making that second small step has never seemed so close. Current NASA plans include sending humans to the red planet as early as the 2030s.

Should we ever establish colonies on Mars, we’d need to build power generation engines. This would imply finding energy sources and working substances to convert heat into useful energy.

Now, in research published in the journal Nature Communications, my colleagues and I have found a way to make this happen using a substance easily found on the planet: the solid form of carbon dioxide, known as dry ice.

We have developed an engine which can harvest energy from dry ice as it turns from solid into gas. For Martian exploration, it could be a game changer.

We have developed an engine which can harvest energy from dry ice as it turns from solid into gas. For Martian exploration, it could be a game changer.

To understand why, let’s go back to Earth for a moment. Here, we use water to turn the energy stored in coal, oil or gas into useful mechanical or electrical energy through what is known as a “heat engine”. In a steam engine, the most common form of heat engine, fuel is used to heat up water which then vaporizes into high-pressure steam. This steam then powers a turbine to generate electricity, or a locomotive engine to create motion.

Water is an ideal substance to use as it is widely available and cheap, and it is capable of undergoing a phase change (from liquid to vapor) within temperature ranges that are easily achievable with our current technology on Earth.

This whole situation changes dramatically on Mars; although water is still available on the surface of the red planet, it is locked in solid form. Heating it to melting point and then to boiling point to use it as a working substance requires a lot of energy.

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