Using meteorites from Mars, an artificial intelligence robotic chemist has created compounds that can be used to generate oxygen from water, scientists announced Monday (November 13). .
Possible future manned missions to Mars It will need oxygen, not only for astronauts to breathe, but also to use as rocket fuel. One key way to make such missions cost-effective in the long term is to use resources that already exist on the Red Planet to produce oxygen. That would be much easier than lugging a bunch of oxygen, the oxygen-producing stuff, along the way Land.
The idea is promising because Mars has large reserves of frozen water ice, and because water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen, scientists have been looking for ways to harvest the latter element from Mars’ reserves. In particular, compounds known as catalysts are able to catalyze chemical reactions that “split” water molecules to generate oxygen and hydrogen gas.
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In a new study, researchers conducted experiments with an artificial intelligence chemist to produce some of these water-splitting catalysts, and more importantly, these tests were conducted using materials found on Mars. The team focused on five different categories of Martian meteoritesThese are rocks that crashed on Earth after being thrown away from the Red Planet by cosmic influences.
An artificially intelligent chemist used a robotic arm to collect samples from Mars MeteoritesThen use the laser to scan the rough. From there, she calculated more than 3.7 million molecules she could make from six different mineral elements in rocks — iron, nickel, manganese, magnesium, aluminum and calcium.
Within six weeks, without any human intervention, the AI chemist selected, synthesized and tested 243 different molecules. The best catalyst the robot has found can split water at minus 34.6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 37 degrees Celsius), the coldest temperature found on Mars.
“When I was a boy, I dreamed of interstellar exploration,” said Jun Jiang, co-lead author of the study and a scientist at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei. “So when we finally saw that the robot-made catalysts could actually produce oxygen by… Splitting water molecules, I felt like my dream had come true. “I even started to imagine that I would live on Mars myself in the future.”
The researchers estimate that it will take the human world approximately 2,000 years to find this “best” catalyst using traditional trial-and-error techniques. However, Jiang noted that although these results suggest that AI can be very useful in science, “at the same time it needs the guidance of human scientists. An AI-powered chemical robot is only intelligent if We taught him to do something.”
Scientists now aim to see if their AI chemist can work under Martian conditions other than temperature, “where the composition of the atmosphere, air density, humidity, gravity, etc. are completely different from those on Earth,” Jiang said.
Details of the researchers Their findings Online Monday (November 13) in Nature Synthesis.
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