Electrocatalyst to Make Breathing Easy in Space

The new system aims to provide oxygen for long-duration space flights.Image: University of Delaware

The new system aims to provide oxygen for long-duration space flights.
Image: University of Delaware

Neil deGrasse Tyson once said, “Space exploration is a force of nature unto itself that no other force in society can rival.” Unfortunately, there are many factors that stifle human space exploration – one of which is the lack of oxygen.

How people will breathe is a constant concern among space missions. It’s impossible to shuttle oxygen tanks out and the air recycling systems are only about 50 percent efficient when it comes to recovering oxygen from carbon dioxide – but now a new development could mean easy breathing in space.

Research on a discovery from January 2014 is being expanded to develop silver electrocatalysts that may help enable long-term space travel. The original paper, “A selective and efficient electrocatalyst for carbon dioxide reduction,” detailed a development from scientists at the University of Delaware of a silver electrocatalyst that, due to its nanoscale structure, could convert carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide with 92 percent efficiency – freeing the oxygen in the process.