Re: Terraforming Mars with Self-replicating Smelters

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Mon Jan 28 2002 - 16:45:13 MST

On Mon, 28 Jan 2002, E. S. OTerick wrote:

> Is it possible to release oxygen from iron-oxide by smelting?
I think if you heat anything up enough (in an inert)
atomoshere it will decompose. But "smelting" generally lowers
the energy requirements by combining the oxygen bound to the
metal with something else, typically carbon or hydrogen.
Unfortunately most of the carbon and hydrogen on Mars seems
to already be bound up in CO2 or H2O. So you are going to
have to pay the piper to extract the C or H if you want to
"smelt" inexpensively.

However, you may want to think twice before you go smelting
the Fe2O3. I'm moderately certain hematite is a much better
structural material than iron or steel excepting perhaps the
property of ductility. It isn't as strong as Al2O3 (sapphire)
but its still pretty good.

Given the abundance of Aluminium, Iron and Oxygen (relative to
Carbon) in the inner solar system, it is clear that many planetary
dismantlement operations will be conducted with nanobots built
out of Al2O3 and Fe2O3 (*if* nanoassembly of such materials proves
feasible) rather than diamondoid.

Terraforming Mars is a questionable idea. Its at the bottom
of a gravity well. You want to lift all the material out
of the gravity well and utilize it more creatively.


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