BiotechnologyDisaster Relief

The Future of Safe Refuge

Here, we investigate the age-old question; can life be sustained in space?

While Hollywood movies, such as ‘The Martian’, use an excessive display of drama and computer graphics to highlight our ability to survive in a hostile environment – is it that far off from reality?

As leaders in refuge chamber technology, MineARC Systems have extended this knowledge to the development of state-of-the-art monitoring and control technologies; GuardIAN and Biora. These developments, with the aid of Controlled (Closed) Ecological Life Support Systems (CELSS), form the basis for providing significant refuge periods.

The future of safe refuge and designing systems to be able to support human and plant life indefinitely requires some key considerations.


Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems (CELSS)

Controlled (Closed) Ecological Life Support Systems (CELSS) are highly involved, bioengineered systems that rely on plant growth to provide the principal elements of life-support; from food production and gas conversion to water reclamation.

During the 1960’s, the Soviet Union pioneered CELSS during experiments for a regenerative life support system for space colonies. Even now, 50 years later, colony proposals for Mars and the Moon would undoubtedly require very long-duration space station refuge volumes.

The general principle of CELSS is that plant growth chambers provide oxygen, food and fuel requirements for extended periods of refuge. Further to this, the plants would work to consume carbon dioxide and bodily wastes from the occupied areas of the refuge/living chamber, as well as providing humidity control through the condensation of an air conditioner feeding water into the plant area.

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Figure 1: A Simplified Controlled Ecological Life Support System
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Figure 2: Generalised Development of Plant Growth Chamber Air Flow

The Future of Safe Refuge: Plant Growth and Environment Control

MineARC Systems have been developing controlled environments for a variety of plant growth scenarios; ranging in LED lighting design with a focus on capturing and manipulating as much of the usable light spectrum as possible, to the manipulation of gases and temperature within a chamber to maintain optimal growth and sustainability.

Similarly, hydroponic and aeroponic techniques are being trialled in conjunction with the development of control software and measurement instruments that best suit growth control.

Key Areas of Plant Growth Environmental Control:

A plant growth chamber, such as Biora, will require key elements to be controlled within its volume, despite any growing techniques employed through hydroponics. These include:

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Light: An artificial light source (in MineARC’s case generally LED) provides or supplements the light spectrum required for each stage of the plant growth, ultimately for photosynthesis of larger foliage plants and algae.

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Temperature: Plants grow within a limited temperature range, effectively within the survivable limits of human occupation. Coupled with Relative Humidity, which is usually higher than human comfort levels, this aspect of plant growth compliments the current designs MineARC have developed through long-term refuge chamber manufacture.

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Water: Good quality water needs to be provided to plants. Filtration, pH levels as well as precise amounts of water by weight, all need to be controlled to ensure proper plant growth.

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Carbon Dioxide: Carbon dioxide can be added to the system for periods of time to help stimulate plant growth. However, not all plants will thrive in these conditions and not many will survive with sustained (continuous) high levels of elevated carbon dioxide.

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Oxygen: Plants, like humans, still require oxygen during respiration and water intake. Without sufficient oxygen and periods of rest, an effective plant habitat cannot be maintained.

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System Control: It’s clear that the systems required to maintain plant life, in conjunction with any human life support, will be complex. Control systems will need to continually monitor and analyse environmental conditions and CELSS over prolonged living periods.

Moving into the future, MineARC Systems – a specialist in refuge chamber technology – will be investigating the limitless possibilities refuge chamber technology. We are committed to the continual development and exploration of current technologies, for the enhancement of mankind, to the infinity and beyond.



Discover more about MineARC's plant growth chamber Biora or our research and development into New Technology.