Credit: NASA via Unsplash

UofG scientists research new ways to turn water into oxygen on the moon and Mars

By Ashmita Shanthakumar

The research may allow humans to stay on Mars and the moon for extended periods.

University of Glasgow and University of Manchester scientists have been working on turning water into oxygen, a process which would give humans a reliable source of oxygen, something necessary to sustain them in space for a longer period of time than is currently possible. 

One potential method being studied by the researchers is electrolysis, a process where electricity is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The electrolysis process is affected by different gravitational conditions and the lower gravity on Mars and the Moon leads bubbles to stick to the electrode surface and cause resistance, which researchers are working on ways to overcome. 

Gunter Just, lead engineer on the project discusses how they tried to solve this challenge by operating experiments between 1-g and 8-g in the lab: “It was found that the trend observed below 1-g was consistent with the trend above 1 g, which experimentally verified that high gravity platforms can be used to predict electrolysis behaviour in lunar gravity, removing the limitations of needing costly and complex microgravity conditions. In our system, we found that 11 per cent less oxygen was produced in lunar gravity, if the same operating parameters were used as on Earth.” These experiments are allowing scientists to predict how these machines work in other gravitational systems in the hope that being able to turn water into oxygen will allow people to live in other places in our solar system. 

The full research paper on the project, entitled “Predicting the efficiency of oxygen-evolving electrolysis on the Moon and Mars” has been published in Nature Communications. 


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