Measuring Electrical Conductivity to Study the Formation of Brines Under Martian Conditions

Miracle Israel Nazarious* (Corresponding Author), Abhilash Vakkada AU - Ramachandran, Maria-Paz Zorzano, Javier Martin-Torres

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This paper describes a protocol to design experiments to study the formation of brines under Martian conditions and monitor the process with electrical conductivity measurements. We used the Engineering Qualification Model (EQM) of Habitability: Brines, Irradiation, and Temperature (HABIT)/ExoMars 2022 instrument for the experiment setup but we provide a brief account of constructing a simple and inexpensive electrical conductivity measurement setup. The protocol serves to calibrate the electrical conductivity measurements of the salt deliquescence into brine in a simulated Martian environment. The Martian conditions of temperature (-70 °C to 20 °C), relative humidity (0% to 100%) and pressure (7 - 8 mbar) with carbon-dioxide atmosphere were simulated in the SpaceQ Mars simulation chamber, a facility at the Luleå University of Technology, Sweden. The hydrate form of the known amount of salt accommodated between a pair of electrodes and thus the electrical conductivity measured depends predominantly on its water content and the temperature and relative humidity of the system. Electrical conductivity measurements were carried out at 1 Hz while exposing salts to a continuously increasing relative humidity (to force transitioning through various hydrates) at different Martian temperatures. For demonstration, a day-night cycle at Oxia Planum, Mars (the landing site of ExoMars 2022 mission) was recreated.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere61217
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of visualized experiments : JoVE
Early online date28 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

The HABIT Engineering Qualification Model (EQM) that was used for the experiments was fabricated by Omnisys, Sweden, as part of the HABIT project development, under the supervision of MPZ and JMT, and funded by the Swedish National Space Agency (SNSA). HABIT and BOTTLE are the original ideas of MPZ and JMT. SpaceQ Mars simulation chamber is a Luleå University of Technology facility situated in Luleå, Sweden. The Kempe Foundation
funded the design and fabrication of the SpaceQ chamber. The SpaceQ chamber was manufactured by Kurt J. Lesker Company, U.K., under the supervision of MPZ. MPZ has
been partially funded by the Spanish State Research Agency (AEI) Project No. MDM-2017-0737 Unidad de Excelencia “María de Maeztu”- Centro de Astrobiología (INTA-CSIC) and by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (PID2019-104205GB-C21). AVR and JMT acknowledge support from the Wallenberg Foundation.


  • Chemistry
  • Salts
  • Deliquescence
  • Brine formation
  • Electrical conductivity
  • Mars simulation
  • SpaceQ chamber
  • Calibration
  • ExoMars 2022
  • Mars exploration


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