Many people, like myself, remember the “Old” Biosphere 2, from back in the fall of 1991, in which eight men and women moved into a glass and steel complex spanning three acres forty miles north of Tucson, in Oracle, Arizona. Their mission was to test whether humans could be self-sustaining in this sealed-off environmental ecosystem of 3,800 plant and animal species for two years. The hope was that the model would someday be replicated to colonize outer space—Mars perhaps in the mid-2030s.
Biosphere 1 is the Earth we live in and Biosphere 2 was also to be a model for the way humans should live in Biosphere 1. Check out Biosphere 2 here. Take ,y word for it—you will be amazed when you visit and tour this incredible, thriving ecosystem.
This initial experiment failed to be completed, but I will be bringing you the new Biosphere 2 concept as it exists today and what it will be in the future. I am very excited about what I have heard from John Adams, Deputy Director of the University of Arizona Biosphere 2. At the end of June this year, I will be getting a behind-the-scenes view of the electronics and sensors that make the Biosphere 2 function while talking to electrical/electronics personnel from the facility that keep it running.
I will also be visiting with experimenters who are conducting studies within the Biosphere 2 and looking to see what sensors and electronics they may be using.
Finally, I will be looking at the 26-year-old Control System architecture. That system presently uses a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system for remote control, monitoring and logging of data coming from Biosphere 2 and its associated power plant. Adams is in the process of investigating a new, more modern system to replace this. That’s where you come in, as our esteemed audience of experts. More tech details to come on this.
Look for more tech blogs and slideshows to come on my Planet Analog site and some other highly technical articles to come on my EDN Analog and Power Management Design Centers.
Here is what is to come as well.
Adams commented to me that there is a lot going on right now at Biosphere 2:
Owned by The University of Arizona, Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona, it is a major regional attraction and also serves as a laboratory for controlled scientific studies, an arena for scientific discovery and discussion, and a far-reaching public education center. Research at Biosphere 2 focuses on the issues of global environmental change using a multidisciplinary approach. B2 Institute, also based on the Biosphere 2 campus, conducts interdisciplinary programs to tackle the scientific “Grand Challenges” facing science and society—including issues of global climate change, the fate of water and how energy travels through Earth’s ecosystems.
The University of Arizona College of Science takes advantage of the facility’s unique spatial scale providing a bridge between small-scale, controlled, laboratory-based understandings of earth processes and experiments in field settings where it is difficult to control all environmental conditions. Biosphere 2’s size allows researchers to do controlled experimentation at an unprecedented scale, providing the missing link between the laboratory and the real world.
Some issues that are being researched are:
- Where does water go when it rains? Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO)is being built to better understand how landscapes store and transmit water.
- In terms of renewable energy production, they have been working to create “novel landscapes”, which are blends of natural and built environments. They know that plants lose water in through transpiration, but can we use this water loss to act as an evaporative cooler for solar photovoltaic arrays, which are usually limited in terms of their production by temperature stress?
- How do climate stressors such as drought and temperature stress influence ecosystem function?
- How well do small-scale research findings scale up to whole ecosystem processes?
- How can we maximize renewable energy production and the sustainability of our modern cities?
- Where do trees get their water from and does this change during drought?
- How old is streamflow?
Since Biosphere 2 is a collection of multiple biomes (semiarid landscapes, tropical forest, ocean, etc.), they can address these questions across many relevant realms.
Stay tuned to my EDN and Planet Analog sites because some really great insights are coming your way about this truly incredible facility, which I have visited three times over the course of 15 years. I am really impressed with what they have right now, but it is so exciting to see what is coming in the way of new technology that will make this effort blossom.