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#1 2017-10-19 07:38:33

Registered: 2017-09-20
Posts: 350

A mission to Mars could make its own oxygen with plasma technology

A mission to Mars could make its own oxygen thanks to plasma technology
by Staff Writers
Mars Daily
Washington DC (SPX) Oct 19, 2017

Plasma technology could hold the key to creating a sustainable oxygen supply on Mars, a new study has found.
It suggests that Mars, with its 96 per cent carbon dioxide atmosphere, has nearly ideal conditions for creating oxygen from CO2 through a process known as decomposition.

Published in the journal Plasma Sources Science and Technology, the research by the universities of Lisbon and Porto, and Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, shows that the pressure and temperature ranges in the Martian atmosphere mean non-thermal (or non-equilibrium) plasma can be used to produce oxygen efficiently.

Lead author Dr Vasco Guerra, from the University of Lisbon, said: "Sending a manned mission to Mars is one of the next major steps in our exploration of space. Creating a breathable environment, however, is a substantial challenge.

"Plasma reforming of CO2 on Earth is a growing field of research, prompted by the problems of climate change and production of solar fuels. Low temperature plasmas are one of the best media for CO2 decomposition - the split-up of the molecule into oxygen and carbon monoxide - both by direct electron impact, and by transferring electron energy into vibrational excitation."

Mars has excellent conditions for In-Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) by plasma. As well as its CO2 atmosphere, the cold surrounding atmosphere (on average about 210 Kelvin) may induce a stronger vibrational effect than that achievable on Earth. The low atmospheric temperature also works to slow the reaction, giving additional time for the separation of molecules.
Dr Guerra said: "The low temperature plasma decomposition method offers a twofold solution for a manned mission to Mars. Not only would it provide a stable, reliable supply of oxygen, but as source of fuel as well, as carbon monoxide has been proposed as to be used as a propellant mixture in rocket vehicles.

"This ISRU approach could help significantly simplify the logistics of a mission to Mars. It would allow for increased self-sufficiency, reduce the risks to the crew, and reduce costs by requiring fewer vehicles to carry out the mission."


#2 2017-10-19 09:10:23

From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2007-07-15
Posts: 2,526

Re: A mission to Mars could make its own oxygen with plasma technology




#3 2017-10-19 09:13:54

From: Cumbria, UK
Registered: 2007-05-22
Posts: 1,003

Re: A mission to Mars could make its own oxygen with plasma technology

A plasma arc will break down gases into constituent components due to a combination of ionisation and thermal decomposition.  But a lot of energy is lost from a plasma arc as radiation and as thermal energy in the expelled gases.  Also, the electrodes are subject to erosion.  You then need to separate the oxygen from the CO and CO2.  Would that require some kind of cryogenic fractionation?


#4 2017-10-19 09:39:37

Registered: 2016-06-19
Posts: 1,262

Re: A mission to Mars could make its own oxygen with plasma technology

Gas diffusion through a selective membrane, compression and liquefaction or selective adsorption can all separate gas mixtures quite satisfactorily. Any residual CO in the Oxygen product can be catalytically oxidised to CO2.


#5 2017-10-19 09:55:09

Registered: 2017-09-20
Posts: 350

Re: A mission to Mars could make its own oxygen with plasma technology


#6 2017-10-19 17:00:35

From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 24,393

Re: A mission to Mars could make its own oxygen with plasma technology

Lots of links from this search on the related Co2 plasma decomposition … mp=yhs-003


#7 2019-04-25 12:06:51

Registered: 2011-12-29
Posts: 4,128

Re: A mission to Mars could make its own oxygen with plasma technology

The other members already had a look at this some time ago it looks like.  A very interesting option. 

This appears to be a knock off on Edwards original link, but I will put it here. … ology.html

While I was searching for greater understanding, I ran across quite a few Plasma Reforming methods apparently used on Earth, where they use CO2 and CH4 as the feed stock and can generate quite a few chemicals of potential interest.

It also appears that something like this, perhaps a hotter process can gasify municipal waste and leave behind some kind of "Slag".

As I said I don't know enough about this yet.

Here is one that suggests that some liquid chemicals can be generated directly from CO2 and CH4. (Methane). … fuels.html

In a paper published in chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie they report a very unique plasma synthesis process for the direct, one-step activation of carbon dioxide and methane into higher value liquid fuels and chemicals (e.g. acetic acid, methanol, ethanol and formaldehyde) with high selectivity at ambient conditions (room temperature and atmospheric pressure).
This is the first time this process has been shown, as it is a significant challenge to directly convert these two stable and inert molecules into liquid fuels or chemicals using any single-step conventional (e.g. catalysis) processes bypassing high temperature, energy intensive syngas production process and high pressure syngas processing for chemical synthesis.
The one-step room-temperature synthesis of liquid fuels and chemicals from the direct reforming of CO2 with CH4 was achieved by using a novel atmospheric-pressure non-thermal plasma reactor with a water electrode and a low energy input.

I have notions of how useful this could be on Mars.  Of course for Starship Methane is intended to be manufactured anyway.  But, there may be a layer of ice emitting Methane on Mars.  It would be hard to not see how useful it could be to get access to that Methane and the CO2 in the atmosphere, and synthesize many desired chemicals.

METHANE ON MARS: … -mars.html

The most likely source was a sheet of frozen methane beneath a rock formation, which the team believes periodically ejects the gas into the atmosphere.

If this Methane can be accessed in that place and perhaps in other places on Mars, not only all the chemicals that can result, but of course you can burn Methane in Oxygen, and get water as a result.  I do think that where there is Methane, there is likely to be deep brines however.  But that could indicate chemicals from the brines, should the brine exist in an way that can be accessed.

I really do think that if the Methane can be accessed (And if it really exists), that this could be the location to put down roots first.   And to top it off there are sandstone deposits in Gale Crater at least.  Very likely I expect, that sandstone and mudstone will exist over the Methane, if it does exist.  And of course Sandstone is something to build things out of.  Sandstone blocks, and perhaps underground homes in the sandstone.


Last edited by Void (2019-04-25 12:28:16)

I like people who criticize angels dancing on a pinhead.  I also like it when angels dance on my pinhead.


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