We’re Closer to Sustaining Life on Mars

University of Sussex researchers discovered the transformative potential of Martian nanomaterials, possibly opening the door to sustainable habitation on the planet.

Using techniques currently applied on the International Space Station (ISS) and by NASA, Dr Conor Boland at the University of Sussex led a research group investigating the potential of nanomaterials for clean energy production and building materials on Mars.

A mineral found on the Martian surface has the potential to create sustainable energy. Taking what was considered a waste product by NASA and applying sustainable production methods, including water-based chemistry and low-energy processes, researchers identified electrical properties within gypsum nanomaterials.

The study builds on recent research performed by NASA and takes lumps of rock, and turns them into transformative nanomaterials for a range of applications, from creating clean hydrogen fuel to developing an electronic device similar to a transistor and creating an additive to textiles to increase their robustness.

The researchers used NASA’s method for extracting water from Martian gypsum to get water for human consumption while producing a byproduct called anhydrite. The team processed anhydrite into nanobelts — long, flat ribbon-like material — demonstrating the potential to provide clean energy and sustainable electronics. Water can be continuously collected and recycled at every step of the process.

While full-scale electronics production may be impractical on Mars, the anhydrite nanobelts hold promise for clean energy production on Earth, and could eventually have a profound effect on sustainable energy production on Mars.

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