Your Earthly carpet sweeper won’t do the job in the low-pressure, CO2-dominant atmosphere on Mars. But Catalin Ticoş and colleagues have now shown how to build a Mars-proof dirt broom, which can be used for removing sand and dust from equipment stationed on the Martian surface.
The authors’ experimental setup involved a coaxial plasma gun, capable of producing dense pulsed plasma jets, directed perpendicularly to the area to be cleaned. As a test surface, they used an array of photovoltaic cells, covered with a powder retrieved from volcanic ash, which mimicked Martian surface soil.
Ticoş et al. measured the efficiency of their cleaning method in terms of how the voltage delivered by the cells increased during operation. An analysis of the plasma jets in a CO2 environment at the same pressure as that on Mars’s surface revealed an average plasma plume speed several orders larger than the planet’s typical wind speeds — implying that the plasma broom would indeed succeed in the Martian environment.