New technology to create fuel and oxygen on Mars could help humans explore the deep sea here on Earth
- A new technology developed by a team of engineers at the Washington University in St Louis can directly coerce oxygen and hydrogen from salty water, making the process much cheaper.
- When humans eventually do visit
Mars, this new technology could help them breathe on the alien planet and create fuel for the trip back home.
- Meanwhile, on Earth, the same technology could allow for longer submarine missions and deep-sea exploration of uncharted waters.
AdvertisementA new technology that turns Mars’ salty water into fuel and oxygen could be an even bigger boon for defence and exploration here on Earth.
Taking briny water and turning it into hydrogen and oxygen isn’t easy. Still, engineers at the Washington University in St Louis have found a new way to coerce oxygen and hydrogen directly from saltwater.
The process can produce 25 times more oxygen than the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilisation Experiment (MOXIE) using the same amount of power. MOXIE is currently on its way to the Red Planet aboard the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA)
When humans eventually do visit Mars, this new technology could help them breathe on the alien planet and create fuel for the trip back home. However, before our species is ready to travel the 97.3 million kilometres to Mars’ harsh climate, the same technology can prove useful right here as home.
"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, one of the lead authors of the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Unanswered questions on Earth
What makes this new technology special is that the system has been designed in such a way that there’s no need for heating or purifying the water source.
"Paradoxically, the dissolved perchlorate in the water, so-called impurities, actually help in an environment like that of Mars," said Shrihari Sankarasubramanian, who was a part of Ramani’s research team.
The bigger boon is that a system that can work with salty water can significantly make water electrolyzers everywhere — even right here on planet Earth — a much more economical proposition.
While intended for use on Mars, its usefulness is not limited to the Red Planet. According to the study, the same technology can be used to create oxygen on demand for
The capability to create oxygen from saltwater at a reasonable cost can also prove useful for deep-sea exploration to visit some of the most mysterious parts of the planet. This could include the darkest corners of the Gakkel Ridge, the Greenland coral reefs, and, of course, the deepest place on Earth — the
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