Energy Production and Storage on Other Planets

Solar Power and Batteries

Solar Power and Fuel Cells

Demonstration of hydrogen fuel cell from AliExpress. Fuel cell is fed oxygen and hydrogen from two separate storage tubes.

Hydrogen Fuel and Cells

  1. The atoms are small and can thus defuse through a lot of materials. While it might not be a problem in the short term it is a problem for long term storage.
  2. It has low energy density per volume. Reducing volume requires high pressure cryogenic storage, since hydrogen boils at −252.882 °C. One needs very good insulation and cooling, which makes it impractical to create systems for storage and transport.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells with Other Fuels

  • Carbohydrates (polymeric C₆H₁₀O₅).
  • Ethanol
  • Methane
  • Metal hydrides. Basically react hydrogen with a metal for creating a storable compound. Heat it up to release the hydrogen.
  • Ammonia (NH₃), which is actually a great if, if on Venus since NH₃ may already double as a lifting gas.

Other Types Of Fuel Cells

  • Redox runs on natural gas or propane. Is a 1 m³ large cube producing 25kW. For comparison, an American supposedly consumes about 3–6kW on average.
  • Bloom Energy Server is a fuel cell which can run on a variety of fuels.

Combustion Engines

Solar Power and Steam Engines

How the energy of the sun is used to generate steam and drive a steam engine or turbine.
Demonstration model of a stirling engine. It contains two cylinders and drives an electric generator. In the transparent cylinder you got a gas that gets heated which will expand and push the first cylinder.

Solar Power and Sterling Engines

Sun rays focused on a sterling engine.
Growing Algae for Biofuels

Algae and Bacteria Biofuels

  1. You probably already want to grow algae for food, nutrients and oxygen production.
  2. Biological systems don’t break down as easily as machines, which gives very long durability.
  3. Simplicity. Growing algae does not require advance equipment or materials.
  4. It easily scales.
Example of one method of extracting biofuels from Algae. A challenge is to squeeze oil out of an Algae without killing it so you don’t have to grow a new Algae.
  • Biogasoline
  • Biodiesel
  • Methane
  • Ethanol
  • Biobutanol
  1. Steam engine
  2. Sterling engine
  3. Steam turbine

Metal Powder Fuel and External Combustion Engine

Metal powder use in an external combusion engine, heating up e.g. a steam boiler or sterling engine. Byproduct is collect at the bottom and recycled for new metal powder fuel.
How coal powder is used in a pulverized coal fire boiler. Pulversising mill creates the coal power which is blown into the combustion chamber with hot air, where it ignites.
Solar smelter or furnace. Mirrors concentrate sun rays to produce high heat in small location.

Metal as Fuel in Fuel Cells

Aluminium air battery. Spent aluminium is easy to replace, thus giving a way of quickly “refueling” with new aluminum.

Carbon Dioxide Breathing Engines

SiH₄ + 2CO₂ ⟶ SiO₂ + 2C + 2H₂O
Dr Peter Plichta has patented a turbine for combusting longer chained Silanes in earth conditions.

Compressed Air Energy Storage

  1. Very high durability. Batteries do not last very long. Without easy access to repair and replacement on another planet, you want systems with high durability.
  2. Requires low tech to build. An society on another planet will struggle to have a diverse and sophisticated industrial base. It is thus preferable to rely on simply systems which can be built and maintained on site.
  3. Low energy usage in production relative to storage. Batteries require a lot more energy to build relative to the energy stored in their lifetime. Compressed air will pay for itself over time in other words.




Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

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Erik Engheim

Erik Engheim

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

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