A new discovery in plasma could help humans live in Marsaccording to the scientists who did it.
Scientists hope to build a system that will help support life as well as make the chemicals needed to process fuels, produce building materials and fertilize plants.
Numerous space agencies and experts hope to send humans to live on Mars in the coming years. But the planet is hostile: it doesn’t have the oxygen humans need, nor the fuel for the machinery and equipment they’ll need to live.
Engineers hope that can be overcome with technology that produces the oxygen and other materials needed for the years humans hope to spend on the planet. If these problems cannot be resolved, humanity may never survive on the red planet.
The POT it is already working on what it calls the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, which seeks to create resources on Mars. The new discovery complements that approach and may provide an efficient way to produce the molecules that are needed.
When engineers seek to produce the oxygen necessary for human life on Mars, they run into problems. But the new discovery could help.
“First, the breakdown of carbon dioxide molecules to extract oxygen. It is a very difficult molecule to break”, explains Vasco Guerra, from the University of Lisbon, author of the new article. “Secondly, the separation of the oxygen produced from a gas mixture that also contains, for example, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. We are studying these two steps comprehensively to solve both challenges at the same time. This is where plasmas can help.”
Plasma is the fourth natural state of matter. It contains free charged particles, such as ions and electrons, that can be used to help produce oxygen.
“When electrons collide like bullets with a carbon dioxide molecule, they can break it down directly or transfer energy to make it vibrate,” explains Guerra. “This energy can be channeled, to a large extent, into the decomposition of carbon dioxide. Together with our colleagues from France and the Netherlands, we experimentally prove the validity of these theories. In addition, the heat generated in the plasma is also beneficial for the separation of oxygen.”
The scientists suggest that the same system could help break down carbon dioxide molecules to make green fuels and recycle chemicals, which would also help tackle climate change in the future. Land.
The new research is described in a paper titled “Plasmas for in-situ resource utilization on Mars: Fuels, life support, and agriculture.” [“Plasmas para la utilización de recursos in situ en Marte: combustibles, soporte vital y agricultura”]published today in Journal of Applied Physics.