Scientists Develop New Device to Convert Unusable Mars Water into Useful Fuel and Oxygen

Since NASA is set to land its first group of astronauts on the planet by 2033, generating fuel and oxygen on Mars could be helpful for the astronauts

Water which exists on Mars is either frozen or salty which means it cannot be used by humans. But the water discovery on the Martian surface triggered new questions among the scientists—How can humans use the Martian water?

After putting the first human on the moon in 1969, the scientists are now planning for another historic attempt—taking humans to Mars—and also hoping that someday human colonization on the red Planet would be possible.

But there are several obstacles and scientists are trying to find out solutions to all those issues related to the manned Mars mission. However, a team of researchers claimed to have found a technique that would hopefully help in future Mars missions.

Surface of Mars
Creating fuel and oxygen on Mars (Representational Picture) Needpix

Scientists have developed a device that is capable of converting water into fuel and oxygen. The findings of their research were published on Monday, November 30. As per the lead author of the study Vijay Ramani, who is professor at the McKelvey School of Engineering, they started working on the device to turn brine water into fuel and oxygen, with no idea about its application on Mars.

"Our initial interest in this technology was not for Mars. But when we read the report on brines on Mars, we thought, 'Let's see if this would work,'" Ramani said.

Preparation for the Next Human Mission

NASA's Phoenix Lander arrived on Mars in 2008 and then the scientists came to know about the water ice, found evidence of magnesium perchlorate on Martian soil, an oxidizing agent which dissolves in water and also in high concentrations of salt.

The magnesium solution can stay in liquid form with the surface temperatures on Mars that could result in a brine solution, which could be turned into hydrogen fuel, as well as oxygen on the Red Planet, said the researchers. While NASA is set to land its first group of astronauts on the planet by 2033, this process of generating fuel and oxygen could become a helpful resource for future Mars missions.

Mars Mission
Mars Mission Wikimedia Commons

According to the study, the water solution enters into the device which has two sides—one helps to form hydroxyl ion, the second side spits the water for the second time to create oxygen.

This technology is known as electrolyzer but to make the method fit to use on Mars, the scientists have developed a modular device that can be easily scaled down and transported to the Red Planet. On Mars, this device would operate on a continuous basis, it can continuously take the brine solution to produce hydrogen and oxygen.

However, the researchers hope to work along with space agencies like NASA, which has been planning for future Mars missions. "We can work in conjunction with all the existing technologies. It's part of a basket of technologies," added the lead researcher of the study.

In terms of generating oxygen on Mars, NASA Perseverance Rover has a device aboard called MOXIE which can convert the air available on the planet into O2. This device is under test now and if the technology could produce oxygen on a larger scale, it could help humans to breathe on Mars and also be helpful for rocket fuel.

Related topics : Space Nasa
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