A new kind of CO2 engine is on the drawing board. If it works, travelers to Mars might have a ready-made source of power to make their stay more comfortable.
Researchers are developing an exotic turbogenerator that vents CO2 directly into the Martian atmosphere. If it works, travelers to Mars might have a ready-made source of power to make their stay more comfortable — though that’s a big “if,” to put it mildly.
The device would harness the so-called Leidenfrost effect to convert temperature differences into mechanical work.
Some more traditional turbines can and do use fancy air bearings and even magnetic bearings. They can also run on CO2. For example, Toshiba is building a flesh and blood power-generating supercritical CO2 turbine right here in Texas, USA. The main question at this point is, can this thing make real power, and if so, what kind of power? In other words, raw horsepower is great, but if it comes in turning at 100,000 RPMs and you can stop it with your finger, then no amount of practical gear reduction can shapeshift it into a torque you can use to drive an even remotely efficient matched generator.