Scientists have developed a method to obtain oxygen and hydrogen from the liquid saline solution of Martian lakes by means of electrolysis. The new method proved 25 times more efficient than the one currently being tested by NASA.
Conditions on Mars are far from favorable for human life: 95% of the atmosphere is composed of carbon dioxide, while temperature differences exceed 100 degrees Celsius, with an average temperature of -81 degrees F.
Therefore, colonization of the red planet is impossible without first creating a system capable of providing people with oxygen to breathe and fuel – for example, hydrogen – to generate energy under harsh conditions.
Water discovered on Mars could serve as a source of oxygen and hydrogen. And especially attractive in this sense are the saltwater reserves, since the impurities it contains would allow it to remain in a liquid state even at low temperatures and pressures.
In 2018, under the polar ice of the red planet, a reservoir of liquid saline solution about 20 kilometers in diameter was found. Later, scientists confirmed that these types of lakes on Mars really exist and it may have more such lakes.
Scientists at the University of Washington in St. Louis created a system to produce oxygen and hydrogen from a saline solution similar in composition and temperature of Martian lakes. According to the study, published in the journal PNAS, researchers used lead ruthenium oxide as an electrical catalyst to produce oxygen.
Oxygen production with this system turned out to be 25 times more efficient than with MOXIE(Mars Oxygen In Situ Resource Utilization Experiment), launched on Mars by NASA with the Perseverance spacecraft in 2020. NASA’s experimental system seeks to obtain oxygen from atmospheric carbon dioxide by electrolysis.
Furthermore, the new method of oxygen production does not require subsequent cleaning, whereas electrolysis in MOXIE produces carbon monoxide that must be filtered.
“Our Martian brine electrolyzer radically changes the logistical calculus of missions to Mars and beyond. This technology is equally useful on Earth where it opens up the oceans as a viable oxygen and fuel source”said Vijay Ramani from the University of Washington, in a statement.