The problem with plant products whenever I start considering them is that you can always get much more production with synthetics for a given amount of mass shipped from Earth (at least in the near term). A small UHMWPE powder production system can produce more polyethylene in an hour than the equivalent mass of hydroponics system could produce bamboo in a year.
Ethanol is produced during fermentation via yeast and sugars. Best way to produce sugar is growing sugar beets or sugarcane, so it looks like we're back to growing plants.
Bamboo is made into flooring, cutting boards, and furniture today.
Small plants first, then the small trees and bamboo. Plants are easy, they can all be brought in seed form. Animals and fish, another story.
People can eat the plants or use the bamboo for wood materials.
Quote from: spacenut on 03/06/2017 08:36 PMBamboo is made into flooring, cutting boards, and furniture today. Not to forget, socks. Bamboo can be processed to make clothing.
The idea is to minimize shipping supplies from Earth by producing products at the colony.Where does the colony get the ethylene to produce UHMWPE powder?
Where does the colony get the ethylene to produce UHMWPE powder?
Quote from: RonM on 03/06/2017 09:24 PMWhere does the colony get the ethylene to produce UHMWPE powder?There is research in an advanced stage to convert methane to ethylene. The driver for this research is the methane byproduct of oil wells. In many areas there is no infrastructure to transport the methane and it is still being burned off. Catalytic transformation of methane to ethylene can eliminate that waste. Very useful on Mars too.
Systems for in-situ production of UHWMPE on Mars are not theoretical, they've already been built. Ethylene is produced from the partial oxidation of methane in a microreactor cascade. It can also be produced direct from syngas.Note that there still are consumables. For example, in a prototype Mars UHMWPE system designed for producing a UHMWPE/aggregate concrete substitute , they were using liquid phase polymerization, wherein the catalyst ends up (in tiny quantities) in the plastic. But there's also gas phase polymerization options where it doesn't. And in any system there's always going to be some consumables. Agriculture is absolutely no exception. The production rate difference, however, is massive.
So growing construction materials won't be needed, but it would be nice to have a small grove to make a colony more livable.
I guess whether to grow plants or artificially create plastics will all depend on which has the least requirements for mass shipped from Earth including required spare parts. I think it has been stated that plants will grow best under solar powered LEDs rather than natural light for the same energy input. The mass required to be shipped will be higher under LEDSs if on the surface. If we can find suitable tunnels this may not be true. How much energy is required to create a Kg of ethylene from water and the Mars atmosphere ?