How to make oxygen catalyst on Mars from meteorites via AI-powered robot chemist
Nov. 15, 2023.
2 min. read Interactions
This AI-generated process would take a human researcher 2,000 years, says researcher
This AI-generated process would take a human researcher 2,000 years, says scientist
Researchers in China have developed an AI-powered robot chemist that could use materials found on Mars to produce catalysts. These chemicals would break down water, releasing oxygen, which is needed on Mars for burning (heating) and breathing.
The study, published in Nature Synthesis, was led by Jun Jiang at the University of Science and Technology in Hefei, of China.
- A mobile machine the size of a refrigerator with a robotic arm analyzed five meteorites that had come from Mars or were collected on Earth, mimicking the Martian surface and producing useful catalysts.
- The AI-powered system used acid and alkali to dissolve and separate the material, then analysed the resulting compounds.
- These then formed the basis of a search of more than 3.7 million formulae for a chemical that could break down water (as ice at Mars’ poles and under the planet’s surface)—a process the team said would have taken a human researcher 2,000 years.
- The result: an oxygen-evolution reaction catalyst that could release oxygen from water.
The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) on board NASA’s Perseverance rover, which touched down on Mars in February 2021, has already successfully demonstrated the production of oxygen from the Martian air, which is mostly carbon dioxide.
Citation: Zhu, Q., Huang, Y., Zhou, D., Zhao, L., Guo, L., Yang, R., Sun, Z., Luo, M., Zhang, F., Xiao, H., Tang, X., Zhang, X., Song, T., Li, X., Chong, B., Zhou, J., Zhang, Y., Zhang, B., Cao, J., . . . Luo, Y. (2023). Automated synthesis of oxygen-producing catalysts from Martian meteorites by a robotic AI chemist. Nature Synthesis, 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1038/s44160-023-00424-1 (open-access)