A New Device Will Allow Mars Colonists Extract Fuel and Oxygen from Water on the Red Planet

By: | December 7th, 2020

(Image Courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Scientists are planning to send its first crewed mission to Mars in just four years. They have plans to have permanently crewed bases on Mars. So for long-term bases, they want to make them self sufficient in as many essentials as possible.

In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) 

A lot of research is going on to build and sustain a lunar base. Researchers are working on ISRU technologies, which will allow future missions to be less dependent on resupply missions.

Now, researchers from Washington University have suggested a way to pull oxygen and hydrogen out of the brine (salty water) found on Mars.

They have created a new type of electrolysis system that can convert briny water into usable products. Researchers say that this research could improve similar systems on Earth as well. 

The team was led by Vijay Ramani, Roma B., and Raymond H. Wittcoff. Ramani said, “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.”

In their tests, the team tested the system at -33 degrees Fahrenheit to imitate Mars. They got positive results. 

Research scientist Shrihari Sankarasubramanian explained, their system works better with Martian water. He said, “Paradoxically, the dissolved perchlorate in the water, so-called impurities, actually help in an environment like that of Mars. They prevent the water from freezing, and also improve the performance of the electrolyzer system by lowering the electrical resistance.”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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