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Addressing the Mars ISRU Challenge: Production of Oxygen and Fuel from CO_2 using Sunlight

West, William and Atwater, Harry A. and Kubiak, Clifford P. (2018) Addressing the Mars ISRU Challenge: Production of Oxygen and Fuel from CO_2 using Sunlight. . (Unpublished)

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Advanced exploration of Mars, particularly human missions, will require vast amounts of fuel and oxygen for extended campaigns and the return of samples or humans back to Earth. If fuel and oxygen can be prepared on Mars from in-situ resources, this would greatly reduce the launch mass of the mission from Earth. In this Keck Institute for Space Sciences (KISS) study, the viability of Mars near-ambient temperature photoelectrochemical (PEC) or electrochemical (EC) production of fuel and oxygen from atmospheric carbon dioxide—with or without available water—was examined. With PEC devices incorporated into lightweight, large-area structures operating near 25°C and collecting solar energy to directly convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, it may be possible to reduce the launch mass (compared with bringing oxygen directly from Earth) by a factor of three or more. There are other numerous benefits of such a system relative to other in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) schemes, notably reduced thermal management (e.g., lower heating demand and decreased amplitude of thermal cycling) and the elimination of a need for a fission power source. However, there are considerable technical hurdles that must be surmounted before a PEC or EC ISRU system could be competitive with other more mature ISRU approaches, such as solid oxide electrolysis (SOXE) technology. Noteworthy challenges include: the identification of highly stable homogeneous or heterogeneous catalysts for oxygen evolution and carbon monoxide or methane evolution; quantification of long-term operation under the harsh Martian conditions; and appropriate coupled catalyst–light absorber systems that can be reliably stowed then deployed over large areas, among other challenges described herein. This report includes recommendations for future work to assess the viability of and advance the state-of-the-art for EC and PEC technologies for future ISRU applications. Importantly, the challenges of mining, transporting, purifying, and delivering water from Mars resources to a PEC or EC reactor system, development and demonstration of a low-temperature-capable, non-aqueous-based CO2 reduction scheme as described below is perhaps the first logical step toward implementing an efficient near-surface Mars temperature oxygen generation system on Mars.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Technical Report)
Atwater, Harry A.0000-0001-9435-0201
Kubiak, Clifford P.0000-0003-2186-488X
Alternate Title:Addressing the Mars ISRU Challenge: Production of Oxygen and Fuel from CO2 using Sunlight
Additional Information:Study Co-leads: Will West (JPL), Harry Atwater (Caltech), Cliff Kubiak (University of California, San Diego) Study Participants: Xenia Amashukeli (Caltech), Shane Ardo (University of California, Irvine), Manan Arya (JPL), Christopher Bates (Caltech), Erik Brandon (JPL), Wen-Hui (Sophia) Cheng (Caltech), John Graf (NASA Johnson Space Cener), Jonathan Grandidier (JPL), Jeffery Greenblatt (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), Joel Haber (Caltech), Michael Hecht (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Stephen Hoffman (Science Applications International Corporation), John Hogan (NASA Arms Research Center), Frances Houle (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), Simon Jones (JPL), David Kass (JPL), Matt Law (University of California Irvine), Amir Mazaheripour (University of California, Irvine), Brendon McNicholas (Caltech), Anne Meier (NASA Kennedy Space Center), Adam Nielander (Caltech), Bruce Parkinson (University of Wyoming), Arvind Ramachandran (Arizona State University), Gerald Sanders (NASA Johnson Space Center), Samuel Schreiner (JPL), Valerie Scott (JPL), Ellen Stechel (Arizona State University), Karl Walczak, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), Adam Weber (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), Chengxiang ("CX") Xiang (Caltech), Jenny Yang (University of California, Irvine), Almagul Zhanaidarova (University of California, San Diego)
Group:Keck Institute for Space Studies
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180321-103221744
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:85395
Deposited By: Iryna Chatila
Deposited On:26 Mar 2018 21:42
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 13:18

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