September 23, 2023

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Formulation of an artificial extraplanetary carbon cycle

Formulation of an artificial extraplanetary carbon cycle


Space missions face logistical challenges when obtaining essential resources from Earth, especially for habitats on the Moon or Mars. One solution is to create an artificial carbon cycle in these extraterrestrial locations, similar to the carbon cycle on Earth. Artificial photosynthesis through photocatalytic conversion of carbon dioxide is emerging as a potential way to achieve this.

Inspired by Earth’s natural process, the synthetic carbon cycle offers a resource-saving solution for space missions. industrial Photosynthesis Through photocatalytic CO conversion is a promising approach, but efficiency improvement is needed.

Currently, space missions mainly rely on the transportation of basic necessities from Earth. This is very challenging and logistically impossible when we aim to develop stations or habitats in extraterrestrial locations such as the Moon and Mars.

For example, an astronaut needs nearly a kilogram of oxygen per day to sustain his life. Therefore, tons of oxygen must be transported to build a station in extraterrestrial locations every year, which increases the cost and risk of the mission.

This situation is expected to change by building an artificial carbon cycle at extraterrestrial sites. On Earth, the carbon cycle allows carbon atoms to move out of the atmosphere (found in gaseous carbon compounds such as carbon dioxide2 and CH4) to the ground (presented in the form of sugar, starch, etc..) and finally return to the atmosphere to close the loop.

The energy input for this biogeochemical cycle is provided by solar energy, whereby plants or other organisms absorb solar energy to convert carbon dioxide2 and h2O to compounds based on carbon and oxygen via Photosynthesis.

Given that the currently targeted extraterrestrial sites (anyThe Moon and Mars) received abundant solar radiation and showed an abundance of carbon dioxide2 and h2For reserves, this photosynthesis strategy could be adopted to build an artificial carbon cycle system in extraterrestrial locations to provide sufficient propellant and life support for space missions.

Extraterrestrial photocatalytic farm

With abundant reserves of carbon dioxide and water discovered at extraterrestrial sites, it has been suggested that photocatalytic carbon dioxide conversion could also be implemented at extraterrestrial sites to build a synthetic carbon cycle to provide propellants and life support for space missions. Credit: Chinese Journal of Catalysis

Artificial photosynthesis: a sustainable solution

In light of this background, artificial photosynthesis was performed through photocatalytic carbon dioxide2 The shift holds great promise for a sustainable cycle. Specifically, such a strategy could mimic the photosynthetic role of green plants, and is expected to rebuild nature’s carbon cycle on Earth, which is currently interrupted by an increase in carbon dioxide.2 emission.

This artificial photosynthesis strategy, if successfully implemented in extraterrestrial sites as part of the ISRU, could also allow the construction of an artificial carbon cycle in extraterrestrial locations. To this day, many products have been successfully produced through photocatalytic carbon dioxide2 Conversions, such as CO and CH4the chapter3Oh, and HCHO.

However, the CO photocatalysis2 The conversion efficiency remains unsatisfactory to meet practical applications. Thus, the development of photosynthetic carbon dioxide2 Conversion with excellent photoconversion efficiency and product selectivity is highly demanded for its applications not only on Earth but also on extraterrestrial locations.

Research Perspectives on Extraterrestrial Photocatalysis

Recently, a research team led by Professor Yujie Xiong of the University of Science and Technology of China wrote a commentary on extraterrestrial photocatalytic carbon dioxide.2 conversion to provide concise and clear guidance for photovoltaic CO development2 Transformation and its extraterrestrial application. They first outline the basic and general principles of photocatalytic carbon dioxide2 transformation.

They then summarized the problems that photocatalysis can encounter while it is being carried out in extraterrestrial locations. Finally, perspectives on evolution in this field are presented.

The results were published in Chinese Journal of Catalysis.

Reference:Photocatalytic Corporation2 Transmutation: Beyond the Earth,” by Jingxiang Lu, Zhao Zhang, Verdi Caradas, and Yujie Xiong, August 10, 2023, Chinese Journal of Catalysis.
doi: 10.1016/S1872-2067(23)64472-9

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