sciencehabit shares a report with Science Magazine: Last year, NASA achieved what science fiction writers had dreamed of for decades: it created oxygen on Mars. A device the size of a microwave oven [called MOXIE, or the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment] attached to the agency’s Perseverance rover turned carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen in 10 minutes. Now physicists say they’ve figured out a way to use electron beams in a plasma reactor to create much more oxygen, potentially in a smaller package. One day, this technique could not only help astronauts breathe on the Red Planet, but also serve as a way to create fuel and fertilizer, says Michael Hecht, an experimental scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But Hecht, who runs the rover’s oxygen-producing instrument, says the new approach still has a number of challenges to overcome before it can reach our solar neighbor.

In the laboratory, he and his colleagues pumped air into metal tubes that corresponded to the pressure and composition of Mars. Unlike the MOXIE, they didn’t need to compress or heat the air. However, by sending an electron beam into the reaction chamber, they were able to convert about 30% of the air into oxygen. They calculated that the device could generate about 14 grams of oxygen per hour: enough to sustain 28 minutes of breathing, the team reports today in the Journal of Applied Physics. Gerry’s team still needs to solve some practical problems, Hecht notes. To operate on Mars, the plasma device would need a portable power source and a place to store the oxygen it produces, all of which could make it as — if not more — bulky than MOXIE, he says. If space agencies were willing to spend millions of dollars developing it — as NASA did with MOXIE — the plasma approach could catch on, Hecht says. He particularly likes how the electron beam can be tuned to break down other atmospheric molecules, such as nitrogen, to create fertilizer. “There is nothing wrong with plasma technology, except that it is much less mature [than MOXIE],” he says.

Source by [author_name]

Previous articleOoty region is benefiting from the Girls-in-ICT (SHS) programme.
Next articleActionSA outlines reasons to oppose multibillion-dollar alternative energy report – SABC News