Ferrofluids in action. Copyright: ZARM / University of Bremen

Check out Thomas' Poster, showing possible applications of ferrofluids on a Mars mission. Copyright: ZARM / University of Bremen

Producing ferrofluids on Mars?

ZARM researcher Thomas Imhülse succeeded in creating a ferrofluid out of algae oil and magnetite, which could be extracted from Martian soil. Why? Ferrofluids have a very wide range of potential in space missions.

Magnetic fluids, the so-called ferrofluids, are an all-rounder when it comes to applications for long term space exploration missions. Due to their magnetic properties these fluids can be used, e.g., in radiation protection and medicine, they can serve as propellants for electric propulsion systems, or be used as liquid seals in airlock doors of habitats and spacecrafts. Magnetic surface stress pumps (MiSS Pumps), a device concept — currently under development by scientists from the Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) at the University of Bremen and engineers of the ZARM Technik AG — will play a leading role in this, as these pumps will be useable in almost all space systems.

What's next?

ZARM researcher Thomas Imhülse is now going a step further: What about the production of ferrofluids on Mars, for example? In order to not exceed the costs of a Mars mission, it should be possible to produce ideally all consumables and spare parts on site; and this would also apply to utility resources like ferrofluids.

Following this approach, Thomas Imhülse has already succeeded in creating a ferrofluid out of algae oil — a possible by-product of a cyanobacteria-based life support system — and magnetite, which could be extracted from the Martian soil.

Can you share any experiences with ferrofluids made of plant based oil? Thomas Imhülse is looking forward to getting in touch with research teams, specialists and scientists working on ferrofluids.

Drop him a message at:

Thomas Imhülse
(0421) 218-57945