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 today in the journal Plasma Sources Science and Technology, the research by the universities of Lisbon and Porto, and École 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.” [More at links]