Back in the late 1980s an eccentric millionaire joined forces with Columbia University to fund and develop an experiment known as Biosphere 2
. The objective was to create a sealed, self-contained environment where all air, water, food and other resources were continually sustained from inside the "bubble". It ran itself in this manner in an arid desert setting outside of Tucson, Arizona. there were two separate teams of "biospherians" who remained within the nearly air-tight environment for two years each. Results of the The Biosphere 2 Experiment were tabluated and published
The Biosphere 2 crew produced about 80 percent of their food.
The Biospherians grew 86 different crop species. The crop varieties were selected to provide nutritional balance and a varied diet.
Cultivation was carried out entirely by the eight crew members who devoted about one third of their workday to agriculture.
The agriculture system combines both ancient and modern techniques.
The Biosphere crew recycled 100 percent of its wastes - something that has never before been achieved by inhabitants of a closed system.
Through this process, human wastes and domestic waste water have been re-introduced into a productive agricultural system.
A separate system condenses water from the atmosphere to supply drinking water. In addition, Biosphere 2 has a back-up sterilization system for potable water that uses ultraviolet light, and does not introduce chemicals into the water.
From trace gas measurements of the atmosphere from May 1992 to August 1993, the leak rate set a world record low leak rate for a large closed ecological system, 30 times lower than the Space Shuttle leaks.
Sadly, the grand experiment that was Biosphere 2 has been reduced to operating itself as a tourist attraction
while it's current owners seek to sell off the structures
and the Biosphere 2 campus.
Late in 1994 there were changes in the management perspectives of the operation, resulting in the experiment of a sealed environment concluding. Columbia University assisted with the project, focusing on a "reduced CO2 level study." Columbia withdrew from participation in 2003.
Efforts at conducting closed system environments continue at places such as Global EcoTechnics
who have published a number of studies from the Biosphere 2 experiments, and other experiments on closed systems as well. The Biosphere Foundation
has developed a smaller research model, and the Institute of Ecotechnics
in Great Britain continue to conduct research and hold conferences
closed system experiments. Their efforts shall be important not only in ~apparently pie-in-the-sky ideas like travel and settlement on Mars, but in dealing with and addressing the effects of global pollution and competition for increasingly limited resources
that our society shall have to face as we go farther into the 21st century.