Laboratory investigations of the physical state of CO2 ice in a simulated Martian environment


We have experimentally investigated CO2 ice condensation under conditions similar to those expected in the Martian polar areas using the Environmental Wind Tunnel of Aarhus University in the framework of Trans-National Access opportunities within the EuroPlanet Research Infrastructure. Our goal was to condense CO2 directly from the chamber’s atmosphere onto a specially designed cooling plate. We investigated ranges of temperatures and pressures similar to those in Martian polar areas, observed the texture of the created CO2 ice layer, and measured its optical properties. Most importantly, we find that under conditions usual for Martian polar areas in fall and winter, CO2 ice always deposits as a translucent slab. The maximum thickness of the ice that we have achieved approached 2 cm and this CO2 slab ice layer was either transparent or highly translucent. Under significantly lower temperatures or in states away from equilibrium (for example, when CO2 gas input into the chamber was fast and created over-pressure) CO2 deposited as different crystalline structures. In this case, when a thick layer was created, it was not visually transparent. However, even in those cases it still retains some level of translucency. Our results will advance the analysis of remote-sensing data related to CO2 ice, Mars' seasonal cycles, and various models considering CO2 ice condensation-sublimation related processes.

Michael Aye
Michael Aye
Research Scientist in Planetary Science

My research interests include remote sensing of surfaces, related machine learning studies and open source software.