Scientists at the University of Science and Technology of China have made a breakthrough in oxygen production on Mars using an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered robotic chemist. Their study, published in the journal “Nature Synthesis,” details their method of extracting oxygen from water on the red planet.
While Mars has a negligible amount of oxygen in its atmosphere, extensive studies have revealed the presence of significant amounts of water, predominantly in the form of ice. The Chinese researchers aimed to find a way to break down Martian water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules, utilizing materials already available on the planet.
The AI-powered robot chemist employed a machine learning model to identify a catalyst capable of triggering an oxygen-producing chemical reaction. To determine the most suitable catalyst, the robot analyzed five meteorites from Mars or with similar compositions to the Martian surface. By scanning the materials with a laser, the robot detected several elements, including iron, nickel, calcium, magnesium, aluminum, and manganese.
Using these six elements, an algorithm calculated that the robot could generate over 3.7 million molecules to break down water and release oxygen on Mars. The team selected a catalyst that could function under temperatures as low as -37 degrees Celsius, simulating Martian conditions.
Unlike previous methods, this breakthrough approach relies solely on materials found on Mars. If successfully implemented, it could eliminate the need for astronauts to transport their own oxygen or materials required for its production.
Impressively, the robotic chemist delivered these findings in just six weeks, a process that would have taken a human researcher around 2,000 years.
Q: How did the Chinese scientists extract oxygen from water on Mars?
A: The scientists developed an AI-powered robotic chemist that used a machine learning model to identify a catalyst capable of triggering an oxygen-producing chemical reaction on Mars.
Q: What materials did the robot analyze to find the catalyst?
A: The robot analyzed five meteorites that either originated from Mars or had a composition similar to that of the Martian surface.
Q: Can the catalyst operate under Martian conditions?
A: Yes, the selected catalyst can function at temperatures as low as -37 degrees Celsius, simulating the conditions on Mars.
Q: Could this method eliminate the need for astronauts to bring their own oxygen?
A: Yes, if implemented successfully, this approach would utilize resources already present on Mars, sparing astronauts from transporting oxygen or materials for oxygen production.