US scientists may have decided to produce oxygen problem in space
Despite the fact that in space there is oxygen, most of it does not exist in the form that we're used to breathe - molecular oxygen, or O2. Specialists California Institute of Technology (Caltech) say they have created a reactor that enables to recycle carbon dioxide into molecular oxygen, which in the future can not only help in the fight against climate change on Earth, but also to establish the production of oxygen in space. This was reported by an article published in the journal Nature Communications.
How produce oxygen in space?
Deficiency of oxygen is one of the main obstacles in the development of deep space. Earth - the only place, where the volume of gas sufficient for the survival of mankind, but the need to take with large reserves of this important element of life in the distant space travel would be very costly and daunting task. For example, in the same oxygen supply International Space Station replenished by electrolysis of water (its decomposition into hydrogen and oxygen). This has been on the ISS system "Elektron", 1 kg of water per person per day. oxygen reserves from time to time replenished during cargo missions to the space station. It is believed that when the start terraforming Mars, electrolysis would be one way of oxygen production for the Martian colonists, but technologies such humanity yet, so think of it sooner.
Therefore, scientists from Caltech decided to find as part of his research a method for producing oxygen. As a result, they have come to establish a reactor which, if simple terms, takes out and removes the formula "CO2" (carbon dioxide) "C" (carbon), leaving only oxygen. Researchers have found that if the disperse and strike a molecule of carbon dioxide on inert surfaces, such as gold foil, they can be decomposed into molecular oxygen and atomic carbon. The scientists say their reactor operates on the principle of a particle accelerator. First CO2 molecules in it are ionized and then accelerated by an electromagnetic field, and then collide with the gold surface. In the current form of plant has a very low efficiency: for every 100 molecules of CO2 it is able to produce about one to two molecules of molecular oxygen. However, the researchers point out that their reactor proved that the concept of oxygen production is indeed possible in the future can become scalable.
The researchers explain that such a reaction is the production of oxygen in space can also occur naturally. concept development began with an attempt to explain the unexpected discovery of molecular oxygen in the comets. After the spacecraft "Rosetta" found gas escaping from the surface of comet 67P / Churyumov - Gerasimenko, scientists initially assumed that this oxygen was in her frozen state for billions of years, in fact since the formation of the solar system, that is, for about 4 6 billion years. But this hypothesis has remained still very controversial, since such a "frozen" molecular oxygen should have a very high chemical potential and interact with other components of the comet substance, according to some scholars.
However, in 2017 Kolteha team offered another explanation. Caltech professor and specialist in molecular engineering Konstantinos Giapis drew attention to the chemical reactions occurring on the surface of comet 67P / Churyumov - Gerasimenko, as they seemed to him very similar to those of the reaction, which he studied in the laboratory for over 20 years. Scientific assumed that well-studied them mechanism consisting in that the atomic oxygen substance comet converted to molecular oxygen by the action of bombarding the surface of the water molecules also containing one oxygen atom, well applicable in the field of astrophysics for explaining the data obtained by scientists mission "Rosette" . This has inspired scientists to develop reactor.
Why produce oxygen in space?
In the future, the reactor can be used to produce oxygen for astronauts who will fly to the moon, Mars and beyond. On Earth, a similar setup to address the scale can also be very useful, because it can reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oxygen in their process, thereby helping to combat global climate change. However, scientists note that their installation is not yet ready for the practical phase.
"The final whether the device? No. Can this device to solve the problem with Mars? No. However, this device shows a previously proposed concept, it seemed impossible, "- commented Giapis Konstantinos, head of the research project.
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