Synthetic Leaves’ Technology
One of the biggest challenges of astronauts on space exploration missions is having enough oxygen to use for breathing, as fuel, and to use for propulsion. Carrying this amount of oxygen for a medium to extended mission is implausible. Therefore, the only thing that can make traveling to space and ideally living there is to find a way to produce the necessary oxygen on site.
There is also the matter of adding more oxygen to our own home planet’s atmosphere can exponentially help the pollution problem. Having more oxygen around means that fewer people would die of pollution-related diseases. It also means that the burden of cleaning the air is not on the trees as much. Many researchers, as part of university programs, are trying to create such devices. Devices that can take the CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere and in outer space and turn it into O2.
Mars Oxygen In-situ Resource Utilization Experiment is a new development of the MIT. This device is currently onboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover to see if it can actually create molecular oxygen out of the CO2 that exists abundantly on Mars.
Moxie basically uses an accelerator to hit the CO2 molecules against a gold surface. This process causes the CO2 to break into a carbon atom and two oxygen atoms which are quickly combined to make molecular oxygen, O2. The O2 created in this manner is almost entirely pure, totally breathable, and usable in propulsion systems.
Using Moxie, one can create breathable oxygen both on our home planet and on other planets. What’s more, because CO2 is the primary source of pollution on Earth, Moxie can help solve this crisis by reducing carbon dioxide and increasing the air's oxygen. Once Moxie reaches mass production stages, it can be installed in high-pollution areas to improve air quality.
The University of Waterloo is responsible for designing and making an artificial leaf that functions as a natural leaf. Leaves on plants and trees use carbon dioxide and sunlight to produce oxygen and glucose. The glucose part works as fuel for the plant.
The artificial leaves, however, use carbon dioxide to produce oxygen along with methanol. The methanol, in turn, can be used as organic fuel, which decreases the consumption of fossil fuels and production of carbon dioxide.
Producing oxygen and methanol in the artificial leaves is similar to photosynthesis, originally done in green plants. The difference is that the synthetic version uses a cheap and easily found chemical called cuprous oxide. This red powder is mixed with water to work as kind of a catalyzer and kickstart the process of making oxygen.
The scientists at the Waterloo university are currently working to increase the amount of methanol produced in the process. As for oxygen, the rate at which the artificial leaves are making oxygen is more than the productivity of green leaves. The artificial leaves are years from getting to commercial stages. But when they do, they will make a massive difference in the greenhouse gas crisis on Earth.
Ultraviolet in a Vacuum
The scientists at the University of California have discovered that the only way to break down a CO2 molecule is not to create one oxygen and a carbon monoxide. This is a highly significant discovery since it allows scientists to explore how to control this dissection.
Previously, it was the common belief that any attempt at breaking a CO2 molecule would result in the same atoms, single oxygen, and a CO. However, scientists now know that if they hit a CO2 molecule with ultraviolet light in a vacuum, in 5% of the cases, the result can be molecular oxygen (O2) and a single carbon ( C ).
Although 5% is not much for celebration, the mere possibility of something like this allows scientists to explore the matter further and reach more optimal results in the long run. With a bit of time and investment, this technology can soon change all the CO2 in the atmosphere back into breathable air.
Changing one of our most significant sources of pollution back into pure oxygen can potentially solve all the greenhouse effect problems in the long run. This is precisely why investing time, money, and intellectual resources in these projects can not only make a difference in millions of lives, it can also save countless plant and animal species.
The fact is that the pollution crisis, and the global warming issue that follows, are becoming too critical to ignore. With the right attitude, investors can step up and fund more research in commercializing these technologies as soon as possible.