Fast Facts

Biosphere 2 by the Numbers
  • 3.14 acre research facility
  • 7,200,000 cubic feet under sealed glass; 6,500 windows
  • 91 feet at highest point
  • sealed from the earth below by a 500-ton welded stainless steel liner
  • 40-acre campus
  • 300,000 sq. ft. of administrative offices, classrooms, labs, conference center, housing
  • Elevation is 3,820 feet above sea level
  • Over 3,000,000 visitors since 1991
  • Over 500,000 K-12 student visitors since 1991
  • “Biosphere 2” derives from the idea that it is modeled on Earth, the first biosphere
Biomes under Glass
  • Ocean with coral reef
  • Mangrove wetlands
  • Tropical rainforest
  • Savanna grassland
  • Fog desert
Mechanics of Biosphere 2

The basement area of Biosphere 2, known as the Technosphere, covers nearly 3.14 acres. It is where all the electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems are housed. There are 26 air handlers (AH) located in the technosphere. Of these, 14 are large units that can heat and cool the air, remove particles from the air, maintain humidity levels and generate condensate water (for rain, fog and resupplying the ocean). The 12 smaller AHs can cool the air and generate condensate water. To make condensate water or create dehumidification, the air temperature is lowered below the dew point and this cooled air is blown across the chilled or tower water AH coils. Cooling the air causes condensation to form on the coils, which is collected in drip pans located on the floor adjacent to the handlers.

How an Air Handler Operates: The water temperature required by a biome for creating its climate is manufactured in the Energy Center. Then passed along through an underground closed-loop pipe system, to the proper AH coils, and is recycled.

The building with the five arched segments and three towers is the Energy Center complex. The Biosphere 2 laboratory requires continuous power to maintain proper conditions for the living organisms inside and for ongoing experiments. Temperature rise following power failure on a sunny summer day could within 20 minutes irreparably damage the plants in Biosphere 2's biomes. The Energy Center responds within minutes to maintain power and to control the environments in the biomes during the frequent power outages due to summer monsoons.

Within the five arches are two large generators. The primary generator uses natural gas for fuel and a back-up generator uses diesel fuel. In addition to the large generators inside this building, there are also boilers to heat water and chillers to cool water. The large towers are used to cool air by drawing it across a column of water.