Robot chemist could whip up oxygen for humans colonizing Mars: study

Robotic chemists equipped with artificial intelligence may be able to solve the mystery of providing oxygen to humans on Mars, according to new research.

The study, published in the journal Nature Synthesis, found that AI robots can quickly figure out how to cook the oxygen they need to survive, compared to the lifetime it would take a human to complete such a task. .

According to the paper, this is because Mars has more than 1 million potential oxygen evolution reaction (OER) catalysts, which may be too many for humans to utilize when trying to produce oxygen. It is said that this is because there is Furthermore, to solve the problem, communication with Earth is required, which takes 20 minutes to travel between the home planet and Mars.

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This diagram shows the MAVEN spacecraft orbiting Mars. (NASA/GSFC)

“Oxygen supplies must be a priority for human activities on Mars, as rocket propellants and life support systems consume large amounts of oxygen, which cannot be replenished from the Martian atmosphere.” They state in their paper.

AI robots can provide oxygen without the need for human assistance, avoiding potential problems to humans’ ability to survive on Earth.

“Here we demonstrate a robotic artificially intelligent chemist for automated synthesis and intelligent optimization of catalysts for oxygen evolution reactions from Martian meteorites,” the authors write. “The entire process, including Martian ore pretreatment, catalyst synthesis, characterization, testing, and most importantly, the search for the optimal catalyst formulation, is performed without human intervention.”

Images from Mars rover

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover captured this image of Martian soil on February 6, 2022. (NASA/JPL-California Institute of Technology)

What is artificial intelligence (AI)?

The study assumes that an AI robot can solve a puzzle within six weeks, instead of a lifetime that humans would spend trying.

“Within six weeks, AI chemists built a predictive model by learning from nearly 30,000 theoretical and 243 experimental datasets,” the study says.

According to a report in Universe Today, robotic chemistry has continued to advance in recent years. In a 2020 experiment, researchers used mobile robots to improve hydrogen production from water.

Martian rock with ripples

Billions of years ago, waves on the surface of a shallow lake stirred up sediment on the lake bed. Over time, the deposits formed into rippled rocks. This is the clearest evidence of waves and water ever discovered by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity. (NASA/JPL-California Institute of Technology/MSSS)

Researchers believe the same technology could soon reach other planets, paving the way for human exploration there.


“Our study demonstrated that advanced AI chemists can synthesize OER catalysts from local ores on Mars without human intervention,” the study authors concluded. “The established protocols and systems are general and adaptable and are expected to advance automated materials discovery and chemical synthesis for extraterrestrial planetary occupation and exploration.”



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