ENTERTAINMENT

Methane-based rocket fuel "can be produced in one step on MARS"


Methane-based rocket fuel can be made on MARS in a one-step process that uses zinc and a small portable device, the physicist said

  • Experts have come up with a plan to give astronauts enough fuel to return to Earth from Mars – by making methane-based fuel on the surface of the Red Planet
  • Physicists use materials found on Mars such as zinc and carbon dioxide
  • Zinc would be used as a catalyst to cause a reaction in the carbon dioxide
  • This would then initiate the process of producing the methane-based fuel
  • Other methods have suggested using a nickel catalyst to interact with hydrogen and carbon dioxide in high temperature and pressure environments

Physicists at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) set out to solve an urgent problem for space travelers. How can astronauts have enough fuel to return from Mars to Earth?

The idea of ​​making methane-based fuel on the Red Planet has been popular in the scientific community for years, but many are suggesting methods that require large plants and multiple steps.

Now, Houlin Xin and his team at UCI have developed a process that uses a monatomic zinc catalyst that only allows one step with a small portable device.

This method anatomically disperses zinc to act as a synthetic enzyme that catalyzes carbon dioxide, both of which are on Mars, to initiate the process of making methane-based fuel.

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Physicists at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) set out to solve an urgent problem for space travelers. How can astronauts have enough fuel to return from Mars to Earth?

The idea of ​​making methane on Mars to fuel returning rockets was originally developed by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

SpaceX's Raptor rocket, designed to power spaceships traveling to Mars, runs on methane, and Musk is working to find ways to refuel his rockets for the return trip to Earth.

Musk suggests using a solar infrastructure to generate electricity that leads to the electrolysis of carbon dioxide, which when mixed with water, creates methane from the ice found on Mars.

This is the same method, called the Sabatier Process, used on the International Space Station to convert water into breathable oxygen for astronauts.

The idea of ​​making methane-based fuel on the Red Planet has been popular in the scientific community for years, but many are suggesting methods that require large plants and multiple steps

The idea of ​​making methane-based fuel on the Red Planet has been popular in the scientific community for years, but many are suggesting methods that require large plants and multiple steps

The idea of ​​making methane on Mars to fuel returning rockets was originally developed by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. SpaceX's Raptor rocket (pictured), which is supposed to power spaceships traveling to Mars, runs on methane

The idea of ​​making methane on Mars to fuel returning rockets was originally developed by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. SpaceX's Raptor rocket (pictured), which is supposed to power spaceships traveling to Mars, runs on methane

The Sabatier process uses a nickel catalyst to interact with hydrogen and carbon dioxide at extremely high temperatures and pressures – a two-step process that must be carried out in a large facility.

And although Xin is successful in the massive orbital laboratory, he knows that it is not efficient on Mars.

Its process takes up less space and can be operated with materials such as zinc and carbon dioxide in the red plant, as well as in extreme environments.

"The process we developed bypasses the water-hydrogen process and instead efficiently converts CO2 into methane with a high degree of selectivity," said Xin.

Now, Houlin Xin and his team at UCI have developed a process that uses a monatomic zinc catalyst that only allows one step with a small portable device. This method anatomically disperses zinc to act as a synthetic enzyme that catalyzes carbon dioxide, both of which are on Mars, to initiate the process of making methane-based fuel

Now, Houlin Xin and his team at UCI have developed a process that uses a monatomic zinc catalyst that only allows one step with a small portable device. This method anatomically disperses zinc to act as a synthetic enzyme that catalyzes carbon dioxide, both of which are on Mars, to initiate the process of making methane-based fuel

The key to the new and simple method is the discovery of the use of zinc as a catalyst.

"The zinc is basically a great catalyst," said Xin.

"It has time, selectivity and portability – a big plus for space travel."

Despite the breakthrough, the process developed by Xin is still a "proof of concept", which means that it has been successfully manufactured in a laboratory but does not yet have to be carried out under real conditions.

"A lot of engineering and research is required before this can be fully implemented," he says. "But the results are very promising."

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