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Magnets Could Solve The Oxygen Problem For Astronauts On Long Voyages

An astronaut exploring an arid landscape.


A team of experts at theUniversity of Warwick has demonstrated a novel approach to producing oxygen in microgravity involving magnets. The magnets are accustomed to attract bubbles of gas in a single area where they coalesce, rendering it better to harvest them in the reduced gravity of space rather than using heavy machinery that’s not perfect for long missions. The main element problem solved by the experiments is buoyancy. Or even to put it more accurately, having less natural buoyancy in space.

Unlike Earth, where gas bubbles in a liquid automatically popularity, and the fluid stays in the bottom because of the ramifications of gravity, bubbles stay suspended in the liquid medium in microgravity. To overcome the problem, the machines aboard the international space station depend on centrifuges to force the gases out. However, these machines are heavy, consume a substantial level of power, and require a large amount of maintenance.

A good NASA study surmised that the prevailing systems, famous brands which are useful for the Oxygen Generation Assembly on the area station, aren’t viable for longterm missions like a vacation to Mars and beyond. That’s where the most recent research makes the picture through the use of magnetism to remove the necessity for using centrifuges to create oxygen. Utilizing the special drop tower facility at Center for Applied Space Technology and Microgravity in Germany to simulate the microgravity conditions in space, scientists analyzed how magnets may be used for phase separatio, separating gas from liquid.

Solving the majority hauling problem for space travel

Researchers tested various kinds of liquids to observe how an artificial magnet may be used to attract bubbles at first glance of an electrode for easy extraction. The go-to way for producing oxygen in space is electrolysis, that involves passing electricity through water to split up the hydrogen and oxygen atoms. But separating the oxygen from the electrolytic cell requires an artificial centrifugal chamber to spin and force the gas out. Based on the study, a straightforward neodymium magnet could possibly be used to extract the gas in microgravity.

“These effects have tremendous consequences for the further development of phase separation systems, such as for example for long-term space missions,” noted Dr Katharina Brinkert, an associate of the study team from the University of Warwick. Lead writer of the study paper, Alvaro Romero-Calvo from the University of Colorado Boulder, saidthat magnets may be used to create completely passive systems for extracting oxygen in space without requiring added power and heavy machinery.

The findings of these research have already been published in NPJ Microgravity, a Nature-affiliated journal. Discussing alternative ways of oxygen production from Earth, the toaster-sizedMOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment) instrument aboard the Perseverance convertedskin tightening and into oxygen on Mars’ surface in April of 2021. As the machine is made to produce only 10 grams of oxygen each hour, it serves being an important stepping stone for future missions.

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