SWANSEA, NNC - An ambitious plan to travel to Mars and someday form a colony on the red planet may have been a step closer to reality.

Researchers from the California Institute of Technology recently published a study showing how to turn water into oxygen and hydrogen in space. Both of these elements are known to be crucial for long-term space exploration, and can pave the way for future colonies, and allow humans to venture further into the universe than ever before.

Senior Lecturer at Energy at Swansea University Dr Charles Dunnill explained how important this invention is for human survival as we continue beyond our own planet.

Space agencies and private companies already have advanced plans to send humans to Mars in the next few years. However, it is not easy for humans to survive in space for a sustained period of time.

One of the major aviation challenges is to transport enough oxygen for astronauts to breathe and enough fuel to power complex electronics. Unfortunately, there is little oxygen available in space and a great distance makes it difficult to refill oxygen quickly.

But now a new study, published in Nature Communications, shows that it is possible to produce hydrogen (for fuel) and oxygen (for life) from water alone using semiconducting materials and sunlight (or starlight) in zero gravity.

Using unlimited solar resources to power everyday life is one of the biggest challenges on Earth. As humans slowly move away from oil toward renewable energy sources, researchers are interested in the possibility of using hydrogen as a fuel. The best way to do this is by splitting water (H2O) into its constituents: hydrogen and oxygen.

"It may use a process known as electrolysis, which involves running a current through a water sample containing several soluble electrolytes. It breaks water into oxygen and hydrogen, which are released separately on two electrodes," said Dr. Charles Dunnill, as quoted by Daily Mail, Thursday (7/12/2018).

Although this method is technically possible, this method is not yet available on Earth. Researchers claim to require more hydrogen-related infrastructure, such as hydrogen refilling stations, to improve it.

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