One step closer to life on Mars: AI reveals the secret of oxygen production on the red planet

Recent breakthroughs in oxygen synthesis on Mars using an AI robotic chemist to create REL catalysts from Martian meteorites mark an important step towards realizing the dream of colonizing Mars. This technology promises to establish an oxygen factory on Mars, bringing human habitation on the planet closer to reality. Credit: AI-Chemist Group of the University of Science and Technology of China

An artificial intelligence chemist has successfully created a catalyst to produce oxygen from Martian meteorites.

Immigration and life March were often the subjects of science fiction. Before these dreams come true, humanity faces significant challenges, such as the scarcity of vital resources such as oxygen, necessary for long-term survival on the Red Planet. Yet recent discoveries of water activity on Mars have raised new hope that these obstacles can be overcome.

Scientists are currently investigating the possibility of water decomposition to produce oxygen through solar-driven electrochemical oxidation of water using oxygen evolution reaction (OER) catalysts. The challenge is to find a way to synthesize these catalysts in situ from materials on Mars, instead of transporting them from Earth, which is very expensive.

Advances in AI and Martian Chemistry

To address this issue, a team led by Professor Luo Yi, Professor Jiang Jun and Professor Shang Weiwei from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) recently reported that it is possible to automatically synthesize and optimize REL catalysts from Martian meteorites with their robotic artificial intelligence (AI) chemist.

Their research, in collaboration with the Deep Space Exploration Laboratory, was recently published in the journal Natural synthesis.

“The AI ​​chemist innovatively synthesizes an OER catalyst using a Martian material based on interdisciplinary collaboration,” said Professor Luo Yi, the team’s senior scientist.

In each experimental run, the AI ​​chemist first analyzes the elemental composition of Martian ores using laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) as eyes. It then performs a series of ore pretreatments, including weighing at the solids dosing station, preparation of raw material solutions at the liquid dosing station, liquid separation at the liquid dosing station, centrifugation and solidification at the drying station.

A robot chemist with artificial intelligence makes useful oxygen-generating catalysts using Martian meteorites. Credit: AI-Chemist Group of the University of Science and Technology of China

The resulting metal hydroxides are treated with Nafion adhesive to prepare the working electrode for REL testing on an electrochemical workstation. Test data is sent to the AI ​​chemist’s computer “brain” in real time machine learning (ML) treatment.

The AI ​​chemist “brain” uses quantum chemistry and molecular dynamics simulations for 30,000 highly entropic hydroxides with different element ratios and calculates their REL catalytic activities using density functional theory. Simulation data is used to train a neural network model to rapidly predict the activities of catalysts with different elemental compositions.

Finally, thanks to Bayesian optimization, the “brain” predicts the combination of available Martian minerals necessary to synthesize the optimal REL catalyst.

Achieve a breakthrough in oxygen production

Chemist AI has so far created an excellent catalyst using five types of Martian meteorites under unmanned conditions. This catalyst can operate stably for more than 550,000 seconds at a current density of 10 mA cm-2 and an overpotential of 445.1 mV. Another test at -37°C, the temperature on Mars, confirmed that the catalyst could produce oxygen consistently without any apparent degradation.

In two months, the AI ​​chemist completed a complex catalyst optimization that would have taken a human chemist 2,000 years.

The team is working to transform AI Chemist into a general experimental platform for various chemical syntheses without human intervention. A reviewer of the paper commented: “There is a great deal of interest and rapid development in the synthesis and discovery of organic/inorganic materials for this type of research. »

“In the future, humans can establish an oxygen factory on Mars with the help of an AI chemist,” Jiang said. Only 15 hours of sunlight are needed to create an oxygen concentration sufficient for human survival. “This revolutionary technology brings us closer to realizing our dream of life on Mars,” he said.

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