In a first, scientists want to turn Martian soil and air into iron

The team behind the study worked on a method that would use cleaned-up Martian air, dirt, and sunshine to produce metallic iron. Such a process would generate carbon through the cooling of CO gas, as a byproduct of the creation of oxygen in the Martian atmosphere. Heat for the process would be provided by concentrated solar radiation.

Artist’s impression of a Martian colony.

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Through the NASA project MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment), this oxygen synthesis was shown to be possible on Mars, perhaps even on the Perseverance rover. In order to co-produce oxygen and iron alloy, which may be utilized to manufacture metals, Swinburne’s metal extraction method is designed to be paired with a future oxygen generating facility (one that is larger than MOXIE).

This process, it is believed, can then be utilized to advance human development and missions on Mars.

Why are metals necessary to us on other planets?

Technology launch into orbit is costly, time-consuming, and unsustainable. Resource production from other planets enables more effective, affordable, and environmentally responsible space development.

This enables increased human exploration and the development of technology, like as satellites, which aid in data collection and problem-solving on Earth.

To advance the research, the team, which consists of postdoctoral researcher Dr. Reiza Mukhlis and Ph.D. candidates Deddy Nababan, Matthew Shaw, and Matthew Humbert from Swinburne’s Fluid and Process Dynamics Research Group and Space Technology and Industry Institute, is now closely collaborating with CSIRO Minerals and the CSIRO Space Technology Future Science Platform.

Professor Akbar Rhamdhani explained, “we would like to develop a metal extraction process on Mars that is truly utilizing in-situ resources—without bringing reactants from Earth—to support further human mission and development on Mars.”

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