Murray State University

Poster Title

Glow Discharge Production of Oxygen from the Martian Atmosphere

Institution

Murray State University

Abstract

One of the most crucial aspects of any planned mission to Mars is a continual supply of oxygen for both astronaut respiration on site, and possibly, for use as a propellant for the return trip. The most popular approach to this problem favors in-situ oxygen production on Mars, utilizing available resources such as the 95% carbon dioxide Martian atmosphere. However, this requires a large energy budget. NASA’s current plans include sending a system called MOXIE (Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment), which utilizes ceramic stacks to produce oxygen at around 800◦ C. Our alternative approach utilizes the 6 Torr carbon dioxide Martian atmosphere to provide a continual source of oxygen by breaking down the molecule into carbon monoxide and atomic oxygen using a glow-discharge technique. After breaking apart the carbon dioxide molecule, a thin film of silver uniquely allows the atomic oxygen to permeate through and recombine to form molecular oxygen on the downstream side of the thin film, where it is subsequently compressed and stored for later use. Initial experiments confirmed, as theoretically predicted, the oxygen flow rate is inversely dependent on the membrane thickness. By taking advantage of recent advances in thin film technology to reduce the thickness of the film to many orders of magnitude less than used in initial studies, a corresponding increase in oxygen flux can be realized. The thin film must be pinhole free and requires the mechanical support of a porous ceramic substructure, whose qualities were determined analytically. With this system, it is shown that this method presented produces a viable energy efficient alternative to MOXIE.

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Glow Discharge Production of Oxygen from the Martian Atmosphere

One of the most crucial aspects of any planned mission to Mars is a continual supply of oxygen for both astronaut respiration on site, and possibly, for use as a propellant for the return trip. The most popular approach to this problem favors in-situ oxygen production on Mars, utilizing available resources such as the 95% carbon dioxide Martian atmosphere. However, this requires a large energy budget. NASA’s current plans include sending a system called MOXIE (Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment), which utilizes ceramic stacks to produce oxygen at around 800◦ C. Our alternative approach utilizes the 6 Torr carbon dioxide Martian atmosphere to provide a continual source of oxygen by breaking down the molecule into carbon monoxide and atomic oxygen using a glow-discharge technique. After breaking apart the carbon dioxide molecule, a thin film of silver uniquely allows the atomic oxygen to permeate through and recombine to form molecular oxygen on the downstream side of the thin film, where it is subsequently compressed and stored for later use. Initial experiments confirmed, as theoretically predicted, the oxygen flow rate is inversely dependent on the membrane thickness. By taking advantage of recent advances in thin film technology to reduce the thickness of the film to many orders of magnitude less than used in initial studies, a corresponding increase in oxygen flux can be realized. The thin film must be pinhole free and requires the mechanical support of a porous ceramic substructure, whose qualities were determined analytically. With this system, it is shown that this method presented produces a viable energy efficient alternative to MOXIE.