A team of Chinese scientists have developed a robotic artificial intelligence (AI)-chemist that will help produce oxygen from water on Mars using meteorites from the Red Planet.
The lack of oxygen, essential for long-term survival, is one of the greatest hurdles humans have to overcome to immigrate to Mars. However, the recent discovery of water activity on Mars has shown promise.
Scientists have explored the possibility of decomposing water to produce oxygen through electrochemical water oxidation driven by solar power with the help of oxygen evolution reaction (OER) catalysts. The challenge is to find a way to synthesise these catalysts in situ using materials on Mars, instead of transporting them from the Earth, which is costly.
To address this, a team from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) developed robotic artificial intelligence (AI)-chemist that can synthesise and optimise OER catalysts automatically from Martian meteorites.
“The AI chemist innovatively synthesise(d) OER catalyst using Martian material based on interdisciplinary cooperation,” said Prof. Luo Yi, leading scientist of the team from USTC.
Their research was published in the journal Nature Synthesis.
The AI chemist created an excellent catalyst using five types of Martian meteorites under unmanned conditions.
The catalyst can operate steadily for over 550,000 seconds at a current density of 10 mA cm-2 and an overpotential of 445.1 mV.
A further test at -37 degree Celsius, the temperature on Mars, confirmed that the catalyst can steadily produce oxygen without any apparent degradation.
Within two months, the AI chemist has completed the complex optimisation of catalysts that would take 2,000 years for a human chemist.
“In the future, humans can establish an oxygen factory on Mars with the assistance of an AI chemist,” said Jiang. Only 15 hours of solar irradiation is needed to produce sufficient oxygen concentration required for human survival.
“This breakthrough technology brings us one step closer to achieving our dream of living on Mars,” he said.