California researchers have found a new way to bring oxygen to Mars


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One of many largest points with placing astronauts on Mars for any size of time is the planet’s weak ambiance and the dearth of oxygen wanted to maintain life. Astronauts would want to put on spacesuits virtually consistently to reside and work on Mars.

Nevertheless, a crew of researchers on the California Institute of Expertise might have provide you with an answer for this conundrum – the astronauts may generate their very own oxygen at will.

Revealed within the journal Nature Communications, the researchers checked out comets, which generate molecular oxygen, and found that oxygen might be produced with carbon dioxide reactions. The researchers crashed the carbon dioxide into gold foil and the foil emitted molecular oxygen. The foil can’t be oxidized and shouldn’t produce any molecular oxygen, however nonetheless, it did.


“On the time we thought it will be unimaginable to mix the 2 oxygen atoms of a CO2 molecule collectively as a result of CO2 is a linear molecule, and you would need to bend the molecule severely for it to work,” Konstantinos Giapis, a professor of chemical engineering at Caltech, stated in a press release. “You are doing one thing actually drastic to the molecule.”

In Giapis's reactor, carbon dioxide is converted into molecular oxygen. (Credit: Caltech)

In Giapis’s reactor, carbon dioxide is transformed into molecular oxygen. (Credit score: Caltech)

Molecular oxygen is the 2 atoms of oxygen that come collectively to kind breathable air.

Giapis, together with former Caltech postdoctoral fellow Yunxi Yao, famous simply how uncommon this kind of response is within the research, calling it “unique” and “not often noticed even with excessive optical or digital excitation means.”

Comets are additionally in a position to create molecular oxygen utilizing kinetic power, the place the photo voltaic wind pushes floating water molecules into the comet’s floor, in keeping with

To grasp how the carbon dioxide broke down into the molecular oxygen, the researchers created a pc simulation which confirmed the “excited molecules” (excited which means vibrating and rotating round to an infinite diploma) transferring round in complicated methods.

“Normally, excited molecules can result in uncommon chemistry, so we began with that,” Caltech chemistry professor Tom Miller added within the assertion. “However, to our shock, the excited state didn’t create molecular oxygen. As a substitute, the molecule decomposed into different merchandise. Finally, we discovered severely bent CO2 may kind with out thrilling the molecule, and that might produce O2.”

The machine Giapis created works just like a particle accelerator, in keeping with the assertion, giving a cost to the carbon dioxide molecules and turning them into ions. However something with sufficient velocity may yield the identical consequence, he added.

“You could possibly throw a stone with sufficient velocity at some CO2 and obtain the identical factor,” he stated. “It could must be touring about as quick as a comet or asteroid travels by means of house.”

In fact, the potential purposes for this are thrilling, provided that Mars will not be precisely a stroll round a block, 33.9 million miles from Earth at its closest level and 250 million miles at its furthest level.

This may occasionally assist clarify why there have been small traces of oxygen seen excessive within the Martian ambiance. Giapis hopes that ultimately the CO2 in Earth’s ambiance could possibly be become oxygen, even when the yields are low, at only one or two oxygen molecules for each 100 CO2 molecules.

“Is it a remaining machine? No. Is it a tool that may resolve the issue with Mars? No. However it’s a machine that may do one thing that may be very arduous,” Giapis stated. “We’re doing a little loopy issues with this reactor.”


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