On my way to Biosphere 2 I kept wondering where biosphere 1 was, to learn that the researchers working at this University of Arizona Science lab call the planet Earth biosphere 1. Biosphere 2 was built as a private research centre to provide a model of the complexity of the earth’s environment. On two occasions groups of people lived within the biosphere farming fruit and vegetables as well as raising pigs, chickens and goats, once for two years, the second time for 6 months. The whole unit was sealed requiring the water and oxygen cycles in the biosphere to sustain the life inside, although energy was contributed externally and communication took place between the scientists inside and outside the biomes.
While the biospherians was a sealed system, it was more airtight than the space shuttle. The door through which we entered the structure an example of the seal.
During the periods while people were living inside, the temperature was changed by 30 degrees to simulate different seasons. As it was a sealed system, there needed to be space for the air to expand into as it was warming. Two ‘lungs’ were built, which act as air reservoirs. Their domes are clearly visible, and I had assumed these were biomes, when in fact they are solely to provide weather shelter to an enourmous rubber diaphragm which rises as the biosphere temperature rises and falls as it gets colder. As the system is no longer sealed, it has been set to show visitors how it operates.
Research is ongoing inside the biosphere biomes and other research into aspects of geology, biology, ecology and the full breadth of collaborative earth and atmospheric sciences. An example is this solar panel array which is testing different types of PV panels and how they can be arranged on existing brownfield sites such as the edges of ’empty’ open cast mines.
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