Have a look at the proposed situation Mars-
One sees a lot of solar panels in front of the base itself. The conclusion everyone makes is that the living conditions on Mars depend on (solar) energy. It is completely correct to state that no life on Mars is sustainable without electric energy.
Energy is needed to heat the base, to keep up the air pressure, to light it up, to supply oxygen to breath, to cook, to communicate, and last but not least to store energy when the sun is not shining on the solar panels like you have in the evening or when sand storms cover the panels. A source that can keep energy are numerous batteries. However, these are heavy and not long lasting.
In fact the situation above is similar to any space lab or rocket traveling through space only with much more solar panels. Much more because on a planet solar energy depends on the environment, where you don't have that problem in space. I presume these extra panels need to secure the sources out of which energy can be created when the panels don't supply energy. Like total darkness.
All very nice, but what when the sun won't shine on the solar panels for several months? See here below a picture from NASA of a storm on Mars that lasted several months.
This situation would be catastrophic for the Mars-
Having a permanent supply of energy is crucial in the sustainability of a permanent base on Mars. Not only relaying on the energy through solar panels out of what the sun supplies. As long as we don't know the weather conditions on Mars, where we e.g. don't know whether there is a constant flow of air (wind) so much that wind-
A single cell produces a theoretical voltage of about 1.20 Volts, but in practice it is much lower. Between 0.5 and 0.8 Volts. To increase the current cells are stacked in series or parallel. The stack so formed is a "fuel cell" or "stack".
In fuel cells higher efficiencies are created than what is possible with ordinary combustion engines, because the energy is not first going into heat to be then converted into electric energy.
So here we use hydrogen technology to transfer it directly into electrical energy.
Electrical energy is the energy needed on Mars. The in my view only reliable
form of energy one can even store other than the sun that only supplies its energy
during the day and when Mars is not covered by sand storms or whatever else. It is
crucial for survival of mankind on whatever planet having an alternative energy
supply when the initial supply fails. I cannot emphasize this enough.
Now let's see how far fuel cell technology has evolved on our own planet:
Manufacture of a small series of the Mercedes-
The clean, quiet, and powerful fuel cell drive unit consumes 3.3 liters per 100 kilometers (diesel equivalent) and makes for a top speed of 170 km / h. The next step toward market introduction has already been taken: In December 2010, Mercedes-
An individual fuel cell is only about two millimeters thick. Since it generates a comparatively low potential of less than 1 volt, several hundred cells are connected in series to form a so-
And how interesting even at NASA:
NASA engineers at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland are developing a fuel cell that will let planetary rovers operate longer, especially in the cold and dark.
A very good battery lasts five years and then starts to lose its capacity. Mankind survives 70 years on average or 14 times very good batteries. A constant supply of batteries is not very likely. I am pessimistic in it to believe that when the first 20 or 30 people have landed on Mars, the continuation of the whole project will be questionable when the costs won't balance the profits. When enormous amounts of uranium, gold, or whatever valuable minerals won't be found on Mars the project may stop to exist.
Those 20 or 30 people cannot return to Earth. They will be on their own and need to be able to survive. That is impossible when they have to rely on solar power supported by batteries alone. They need to have an alternative storing energy in another form then batteries. In a form that supplies energy like the sun through heat or radiation or a mill through wind. Like fuel you burn in an engine that drives an alternator which supplies the electricity you need.
The good news is that there is no problem shipping such an 'engine' while the elements to fuel it are present on planet Mars. The elements are hydrogen and oxygen. The 'engine' that supplies electricity out of the interaction of these two elements, is called a fuel cell. The in my few only reliable other form of energy people can create on Mars, than the sun through solar panels. However, the solar panels are still needed turning water in its elements hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis or any other more efficient electrotechnical technique. There will be plenty panels so that cannot be the problem.
The fuel cell will only be 'started' when there is a need of extra electric energy. For example when the sun does not shine during the night or when there is a sandstorm. Every night or part of the night you don't need the extra energy out of the fuel cell, the hydrogen and oxygen storage tanks will be filled till extra electricity is really needed. This way one can accumulate potential energy for months as long as the storage tanks are sufficient in seize. (A sandstorm on Mars can take several months).
A most pleasant result of the interaction of the two elements hydrogen and oxygen in the fuel cell is that the 'exhaust gases' are pure water which on their turn can be split again in the initial elements hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis.
Best is to bring the storage tanks from Earth or the tanks in the transport capsules from Earth to Mars can be used? These transport capsules have rocket driven landing equipment for positioning the capsule on the right location. I presume rocket fuel is stored in tanks you don't need any longer once you have landed.
The hydrogen engines of the future don't burn hydrogen. Burning hydrogen is very inefficient because lots of energy is lost into heat. Instead there is a kind of 'cold' reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in the so called fuel cell. In this reaction an electric current is generated which is used to drive an electric motor and battery pack. Here below an explanatory principle of the fuel cell technology.
Hydrogen and oxygen are separately supplied to the fuel cell. The hydrogen at the anode and the oxygen at the cathode. In the cell these gasses are separated by a membrane. Using a catalyst, the hydrogen (H2) at the anode split into two protons (H+) and two electrons (e-
Current rovers rely on batteries recharged with electricity from solar panels. But NASA wants to send rovers into canyons and valleys on Mars that aren’t in the sunlight because these shaded areas are more likely to have water (ice) near the surface than areas exposed to sunlight, and finding water would change NASA’s plans for exploring Mars. These areas are also colder than those exposed to sunlight, which reduces battery capacity. So today’s rovers have limited time — anywhere from a few hours to a few days — to explore shadowed areas. But a fuel cell could power a rover for weeks at time, despite the cold and darkness.
Fuel cells used in space exploration use hydrogen and pure oxygen, whereas those built for use on Earth rely on hydrogen and air, though only the oxygen from the air is really needed. Using pure oxygen eliminates the need to get rid of impurities found in air. This is one way NASA can boost fuel-
NASA can also configure a rover to use solar panels to generate electricity for converting water to hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis. The rover would use the hydrogen and oxygen to resupply the fuel cell’s reactant tanks and extend its power generation capability.
Well, type ' fuel cell technology' in Google search and you'll find lots examples which are experimental as well as daily used.