Breathable oxygen on Mars has always been on of the major questions that arise when discussing the potentiality of colonizing the red planet. It could soon be a reality.
One of the many parameters to be considered in the context of spatial colonization is the production of oxygen for the crew. The installation of a plant biotope is generally the idea chosen to naturally produce oxygen. However, scientists are looking for other ways to replace or supplement the greenhouse. Recently, engineers and chemists at Caltech have developed a technology to extract oxygen from carbon dioxide. They have conceived a device that could also be used to reduce the rate of terrestrial atmospheric CO2.
Caltech researchers have developed a new device that may one day be the key to a viable solution. They have developed a comet-inspired method for extracting oxygen from carbon dioxide, and believe that it could be used for future interplanetary missions and as a means of reducing greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
The details of the technology were published in Nature Communications. Chemical reactions require energy, usually in the form of heat. Kinetic energy can also be used to trigger a chemical reaction. Researchers know that water molecules released by comets can be accelerated by the solar wind and release oxygen when they are released on the surface of the comet.
Since comets can also emit carbon dioxide, the team was curious to see if the same process was happening for CO2 as well. They set up an experiment in which they accelerated carbon dioxide molecules and collided them with a gold surface. Gold being an inert element, the researchers were certain that any oxygen formed would come from the chemical reaction.
“At the time, we thought it would be impossible to combine the two oxygen atoms of a CO2 molecule, because CO2 is a linear molecule, and it would be necessary to bend the molecule for it to work” explains Konstantinos P Giapis, author of the study.