/Artificial Photosynthesis: A Crucial Step for Sustainable Space Exploration

Artificial Photosynthesis: A Crucial Step for Sustainable Space Exploration

Key idea:  

Key idea:  A research collaboration led by a Missouri University of Science and Technology physicist has used a new computational process that increases the speed and scale of numerical simulations to observe a previously theorized emerging behavior of light.

Original author and publication date: ImpactLab – June 16, 2023

Futurizonte Editor’s Note: Artificial photosynthesis… Artificial humans… Artificial Intelligence…

From the article:   

The challenge of space travel lies in the human need for oxygen. Limited fuel capacity restricts the amount of oxygen that can be carried, particularly for long-duration journeys to destinations like the moon and Mars. Trips to Mars typically span around two years, making it impractical to transport sufficient resources from Earth. Oxygen production through carbon dioxide recycling is already accomplished on the International Space Station (ISS) using a process called electrolysis, which employs electricity from solar panels to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Additionally, a separate system converts exhaled carbon dioxide into water and methane.

However, these existing technologies are unreliable, inefficient, cumbersome, and challenging to maintain. The oxygen generation process alone consumes approximately one-third of the total energy required for the ISS’s environmental control and life support system. Consequently, ongoing efforts are focused on finding alternative systems suitable for lunar missions and trips to Mars. One potential solution involves harnessing abundant solar energy in space and utilizing it directly for oxygen production and carbon dioxide recycling in a single device, much like the natural process of photosynthesis. This approach eliminates the need for complex setups where light harvesting and chemical production are separate, as seen on the ISS.

This novel approach holds significant advantages for space exploration. By capturing solar energy directly, additional thermal energy released during the process can catalyze the chemical reactions, expediting their speed. Furthermore, complex wiring and maintenance can be significantly reduced.

The research team developed a theoretical framework to analyze and predict the performance of such integrated “artificial photosynthesis” devices, with a specific focus on applications in lunar and Martian environments.

Read here the complete article