Oxygen can be created in space by magnetism

A recent scientific study suggests using magnetism to produce oxygen in space for astronauts, improving this process.

An international team of researchers, including the University of Warwick in the UK, the University of Colorado in Boulder in the US and the Free University of Berlin in Germany, may have devised a better way to produce oxygen in space using magnetism.

The research result was published in the journal npj Microgravity and offers a solution to the complex process of keeping astronauts in spacecraft such as the International Space Station, which may aid in future plans for missions to the Moon and Mars.

The lead author of the research, Ph.D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Alvaro Romero Calvo, explained the current difficulty of producing oxygen in space, via Phys. “On the International Space Station, oxygen is generated using an electrolysis cell that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen, but then you have to remove these gases from the system.”

He continues: “A relatively recent analysis by a researcher in [Centro de Pesquisa] NASA’s Ames concluded that adapting the same structure for a trip to Mars would incur such significant mass and reliability penalties that it would be foolish to use them. »

Dr Katharina Brinkert, of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Warwick and the Center for Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) in Germany, also commented on the issue. “Efficient phase separation in low gravity environments is an obstacle to human space exploration and has been known since the first spaceflights in the 1960s. This phenomenon presents a particular challenge to the life support system on board the spacecraft and the International Space Station, since oxygen is produced for the crew in electrolysis systems for water and requires separating the electrode from the liquid with an electrolyte.

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A major problem with the current system is the lack of gravity in space. On Earth, carbon dioxide bubbles in a liquid would quickly rise upward, but in space the bubbles have nowhere to go and are suspended in the liquid.

Today, NASA uses centrifuges to expel gases from the oxygen production system. However, these machines are bulky and require a lot of mass, energy, and maintenance.

This is where the relevant international study comes in, which suggests that using magnetism can achieve similar results in some cases, making it possible to produce oxygen without this step.

Autumn tower in Bremen, Germany. picture : .

The spatial application of magnetic forces by engineers is still little explored, as gravity makes it difficult to demonstrate the technology on Earth. However, the researchers relied on the Center for Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) in Germany, which has a special drop tower facility capable of simulating microgravity conditions.

There, the researchers were able to develop a procedure to separate gas bubbles from the electrode surfaces in microgravity environments generated by 9.2 seconds in a free-fall tower in Bremen. Thus, it was possible to witness for the first time that gas bubbles can be “attracted” and “repelled” from a simple neodymium magnet in microgravity, by immersing them in different types of aqueous solutions.

This may open opportunities for new studies by scientists and engineers working to develop oxygen production systems in space, which involve phase changes from liquid to gas.

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