Mars’ ground salt may be a good source of oxygen

Mars' ground salt may be a good source of oxygen
Zoom in / Pathfinder Rover took this photo. It does not need oxygen and, unlike weak, fleshy humans, wants to follow its path.

If humans are ever going to visit Mars, they may need to create some important resources while they are there to survive the long journey to search and restart. Although the days of surface water flow are long, the Red Planet is not without the raw materials to do this job.

Launched in July, Mars 2020 carries the mission A test With this goal in mind. MOXIE – Mars Oxygen In-situ Resource Utilization Test – is a box that is no larger than a toaster that produces oxygen from atmospheric CO.2. When a rocket requires the largest version to produce liquid-oxygen fuel, MOXIE is measured to produce about the amount of oxygen an active person needs to breathe.

A new study, led by Braille Cayenne at the University of Washington in Missouri, Missouri, is testing a device that can tap into a different resource — perchlorate salt, believed to be present in some places on Mars. The device separates the water in that brine and produces pure oxygen and hydrogen.

Perchlorate (ClO4) Salts, as we have found, are common on Mars. These salts have a contact with water molecules and over time water vapor can collect, becoming saline with very low freezing temperatures. Is there Evidence Substantial amounts of what this salt might be beneath the surface of Mars’ North Pole, and small amounts have been used as a possible explanation for the active ones Lines that sometimes appear On the slopes of Mars.

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To test whether we can tap this resource, researchers developed an electrolysis device that operates under conditions similar to Mars. It uses a standard platinum-carbon cathode and a special lead-ruthenium-oxygen anode previously developed by researchers. They mixed a reliable concentration of magnesium perchlorate brine and filled the container headspace with pure CO2 To a Martian-like atmosphere. The whole thing was kept at -36 C (-33 ° F). When running, the salt flows through the device and separates into pure oxygen gas captured on the anode side and pure hydrogen gas on the cathode side.

The device worked well, producing 25 times more oxygen than its MOXIE number could handle. The MOXIE requires 300 watts of power to operate, and this device fits that oxygen output at about 12 watts. In addition, it produces hydrogen that can be used in fuel cells to generate electricity. Researchers say it is smaller and lighter than MOXIE. Ultimately, all of this explains why MOXIE operates on atmospheric CO with low quality but widely available resources2 Instead of water.

Such a device should go for a long-term pressure test, of course, to ensure that performance does not decrease over time, it is usually strong. The membrane separating the cathode and anode sides was carefully activated to prevent CO2 For example, from cheating on it. If your survival depends on the device you brought to Mars, crashes are not an option.

PNAS, 2020. DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.2008613117 (About DOIs).

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