The bioreactor will give Martian colonists oxygen and valuable chemical raw materials

Already now scientists are thinking about what and how the participants in the first Martian missions will produce the things they need - oxygen, water, building materials and much more. One of the options - to collect carbon dioxide from the atmosphere of Mars (which consists of 95.32% CO2) and turn it into multifunctional "bricks" for the synthesis of organic elements.

Researchers from the University of California have designed a bioreactor that can do this with high efficiency, using a mixture of bacteria and an array of nanowires.

The bioreactor works on the same principle as the natural process of photosynthesis in plants, in which they use sunlight to turn CO2 into sugars necessary for energy production. The bioreactor also uses water and Sporomusa ovata bacteria placed in an array of nanowires to stimulate the process.

Silicon nanowires are one hundredth thick of a human hair and act as a solar collector. By absorbing light, producing electrons and "feeding" them to the bacteria that live among them, the nanowires trigger a chemical process that enables the bacteria to convert CO2 and water into acetate and oxygen.

On Mars, acetate molecules can be used as building blocks to produce organic molecules - the basis of future fuels, plastics or medicines. In this case, the oxygen released can be used to maintain the artificial atmosphere at 20%, which corresponds to the parameters of the Earth.

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