Consequently, engineers at Washington University in St. Louis decided to develop a new electrolysis device that would turn Martian salt water into oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for propulsion. Because, as many of us remember from school, electrolysis of water is the process of decomposing a water molecule under the influence of an electric current into hydrogen and oxygen, which can then be used for other purposes. Therefore, it should be a solution that allows astronauts on site to obtain oxygen for breathing and hydrogen fuel at the same time, but ... this solution does not work very well with salt water, which is exactly what is found on Mars.
First, it would be necessary to reduce salinity, which is a very difficult process to be carried out in not very favorable Martian conditions. Therefore, scientists set out to develop an electrolysis device that would be able to work on salt water and in an extremely cold Martian atmosphere. Key changes took place in two electrodes - the team created a lead ruthenium pyro anode and a platinum-on-carbon cathode. To find out if such a solution worked, the team simulated the atmosphere of the Red Planet, which meant cooling the whole thing down to -36 ° C, but it turned out to be worthwhile, because everything works as it should.
The team said that with the same energy consumption, the new device produces more than 25 times more oxygen than the MOXIE, a special instrument aboard the Perseverance rover that will extract oxygen from carbon dioxide. And while the technology is intriguing and very helpful, it should be remembered that water on Mars is a scarce commodity, so it would probably be better to use it for drinking, although that also requires the aforementioned salt removal. Anyway, the new electrolysis is promising Movie sider will probably also be used on Earth: - We have demonstrated that the new electrolysis devices can work in demanding Martian conditions, but we also want to locate them in much more favorable conditions on our planet to use salt or brackish water for the production of hydrogen and oxygen, e.g. by electrolysis of seawater, explains one of the authors of the study, Pralay Gayen.