NASA created oxygen on Mars last year using a microwave-size device attached to the Perseverance rover. Now, physicists have come up with a way to use electron beams in a plasma reactor to create far more oxygen.
Perseverance carried a device that splits carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide and oxygen ions. Vasco Guerra, a physicist at the University of Lisbon, thought a plasma reactor might be a better approach, since it would be easier to create and accelerate a beam of electrons in the thin martian air.
In the lab, a device that can create 14 grams of oxygen per hour was created by pumping air designed to match the pressure and composition of Mars into metal tubes.
Guerra’s team still needs to solve some practical problems, such as a portable power source and a place to store the oxygen it makes, but the plasma approach could mature.
The technique might someday not just help astronauts breathe on the Red Planet, but could also serve as a way to create fuel and fertilizer, says Michael Hecht, an experimental scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
For more on this story, please consider these sources:
- Scientists invent new way to produce oxygen on MARS Daily Mail
- Plasma reactors could create oxygen on Mars Science
- Plasma-powered oxygen harvesting could help humans live on Mars Interesting Engineering
- Magnets could be used to produce oxygen in space Geo News
- ‘Plasma’ breakthrough could let humans live on Mars The Independent