Some bacteria and algae naturally produce hydrocarbons such as methane. Bioengineered microbes could be used in an industrial scale. All living organisms use hydrocarbons for energy storage and the elaboration of living tissues. biomass is the portion of hydrocarbons that cannot be used as food.
Algae, bacteria and plants also produce complex hydrocarbons in the form of oils and fats for energy storage.
The building blocks of hydrocarbons, Hydrogen and Carbon, are readily available on Mars. Carbon Dioxide is the major component of the atmosphere. Water from the surface of Mars can be split through electrolysis. These building blocks are assembled through various chemical reactions.
Production of methane is possible via the Sabatier reaction:
- CO2 + 4H2 ↔ CH4 + 2H2O
Carbon monoxide can be produced via the Reverse Water-Gas Shift Reaction:
- CO2 + H2 → CO + H2O (deltaH = +9 kcal/mole)
The Fischer-Tropsch reaction converts hydrogen and carbon monoxide into various hydrocarbons.
'n' is any positive number.