Interview: High school students develop source of energy on Mars

If you’re into amazing things, Chase Bishop and his partner James Thompson are high school students who developed a way for dry ice to become a source of energy on Mars.

“Once I saw the amount of power that could be built up in a closed container, I was reminded of steam engines and the boilers that build up the pressure. I figured that if boiling water to generate pressure could run an engine, why couldn’t the sublimation of dry ice be used in the same way,” Bishop tells us.

His idea began one day when watching YouTube videos on dry ice bombs. These videos struck a chord with him, and he was able to come up with an amazing idea: if these dry ice bombs give off a lot of power, they could be used as an initial energy source.

“I easily get side tracked. I originally started by watching videos of cornstarch and water and people walking on it. Being a football player, I wondered if a non-Newtonian fluid could be used in pads or in a helmet. After watching that video, I saw a suggested video titled ‘What Happens When You Microwave Dry Ice?’ I was curious so I clicked on it. The video was a huge disappointment. I was expecting an explosion or something, but in the suggestions there was a video entitled ‘Scary Dry Ice Explosion at 62,000 FPS | Slow Mo Lab’ which looked like it could satisfy my need to watch an explosion and it did!

After watching the video I observed through the mayhem of the videos the amount of power packed in just a simple phase change. I originally wanted to use the power to be used in a gun, however, that idea was quickly shot down (pun intended). I then thought that it could be used to push a piston or spin a turbine because it takes more energy to create dry ice on earth than any engine would put out. After chatting with James about his love of space, I had remembered a fun fact that the Martian polar caps were made of dry ice and I put two and two together. The rest is history,” Chase told us.

The problem with this, as the fact that on Earth, dry ice takes heaps amounts of energy in order to freeze carbon dioxide. On Mars, however, that’s not the case. Carbon Dioxide is available on Mars.

“A great deal of hardships came in the forms of redesigning the engine and trial and error of parts of the engine,” says Chase. “But as one of my friends who is in the TIME program told me, failure is a part of science.”

He and his partner took this theory and began working on a project that would create a machine to produce this energy.

Chase and James!

So how does this is all work?

“Basically, in a steam engine, fuel is used to vaporize the water into steam. The steam is collected and contained in a pressure vessel which, once an appropriate pressure is reached, releases that steam to power a turbine (for electrical energy) or pistons (for mechanical energy)

Water is an ideal substance for this — it is widely available and cheaply acquired. More importantly, it is capable of changing phases (from liquid to vapor) within a temperature range that is easily achievable,” Mars for the Many explains in this interview with Chase.

With the help a retired NASA engineer and a bit of funding from the TIME program, Chase and James were able to design what their energy machine would look like and how it would work. From there, it’s been nothing but success and has changed the way we are searching for energy sources on different planets.

What’s next for Chase and his partner?

“Next in my research as a sophomore, I want to continue working out some of the bugs and  figuring out how to make the engine more efficient and effective,” Chase explains. “I have thought of putting an airlock on the engine to allow dry ice to be continually added. Other ideas have been creating a dry ice reclaimer or using Liquid CO2 as a pressure source. I also have a few ideas up my sleeve I don’t want to tell y’all just yet. Sadly, James will not be moving forward with our research this year since he chose to not continue with TIME.”

Did you ever anticipate that you would be here today, or rather, that your project would become this iconic?

I had no Earthly clue that my project would even win anything at the state NCSAS competition let alone have people want to write articles about my project and say that my work could be the future.

A lot of people are contemplating whether or not Dry Ice (CO2) is the most efficient way to power an entire planet.

Do you have hope in the future that NASA will take the idea and implement it in some way?

I do hope that NASA or some other organization will implement my ideas in some way. That would be a dream come true. I hope that they find the right way to generate electricity on Mars. So most of all I’m hoping that my way is the right way. I feel like there is an Edison quote that connects to this. 🙂 And if it’s not the right way, I’ve had tons of fun and I have contributed to science in some way.

What a bright kid, am I right?

Chase would also like me to let you all know that he is a Christian scientist. I love that, because you don’t hear it much these days and I adore the fact that he wants to let people know that you can believe in both!

He also wants me to note that he intends to go to college for playing football! So, if anyone/any colleges are interested in making his dream come true and having a brilliant mind part of any of their projects or programs (football related or not), his email is [email protected] !

You can also get in contact with James through him!

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Amber Karpaty
Amber Karpaty 215 posts

You may or may not have seen me dancing around on our YouTube channel. I really love psychology and dissecting shows/film. Also your token anime nerd.