Scientists are looking for a way to have or to generate oxygen on Mars. The idea is to create the breathable oxygen on the spot and do not carry it from our planet to Mars. After some research, the team from California Institute of Technology in Pasadena has discovered that by studying the comets they can have an oxygen-generating reaction, and they explain how the comets can generate molecular oxygen.
What Is the Method?
We know about one method already, is through the kinetic energy. In this method, the solar winds are pushing the floating water molecules from right into the comet. The water molecules will enter the comet’s surface, and everything is happening there. If the comet has oxygen-containing components on its surface, the water molecules will rip the oxygen atoms, and they will produce molecular oxygen.
On the other hand, carbon dioxide reactions can produce molecular oxygen. Yunxi Yoa, a former Caltech postdoctoral, and Konstantinos Giapis, current Caltech engineering professor, have experimented. They have simulated the carbon dioxide reactions with a gold foil. The gold foil can’t be oxidized so molecular oxygen can’t be produced. But when they have crash carbon dioxide into the gold foil at high speed, the gold had begun to emit molecular oxygen. That means that the carbon dioxide had broken into molecular oxygen.
However, for understanding much better this reaction, a computer simulation was made by Tom Miller and Philip Shushkov, chemistry professors. In the computer simulation, they have feared that the molecules are very excited and can lead to great chemistry. But the process happened in another way because even with the excited state, molecular oxygen wasn’t created, but decomposed products were created.
Also, the scientists have learned that the carbon dioxide molecules with an unusual geometry can be produced without using the excited atoms, so they will produce oxygen. Also, Giapis have mentioned that the reaction could take place at a slower speed, and this could be the reason why they have found oxygen floating in the Mars atmosphere.
Finally, Giapis had used a reactor that is generating one or two oxygen molecules from every one hundred carbon dioxide molecules. Starting from here, they could modify the reactor to create breathable air for astronauts on Mars, and it could be used even on Earth where they could pull the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it.
Dee Mongo is a graduate of UFT. She’s based in Toronto and has written for Maclean’s, Motherboard, the National Post, and the Huffington Post. In her spare time, she plays AC/DC on the ukulele and does psychic readings for B-grade celebrities. Dee is our tech/finance correspondent.