Chinese scientists have developed an AI-driven robotic chemist that synthesizes and optimizes catalysts for oxygen evolution reactions from Mars meteorites using artificial intelligence, offering a highly energy-efficient and energy-conserving method for producing oxygen on Mars.
By using a machine-learning model, the AI chemist is able to identify the best catalyst formula from more than three million possible combinations. According to the study published in Nature Synthesis on Monday, this groundbreaking discovery shows AI chemists can create chemicals and materials for Mars exploration automatically.
In order to survive on Mars, it is necessary to be able to produce chemicals that are essential for survival, such as oxygen, from local Martian resources. However, this is a challenging task.
A solar-driven electrochemical water oxidation process using an oxygen evolution reaction catalyst could be used to produce large amounts of oxygen on Mars based on recent evidence of water activity. It is a key technical issue to develop extraterrestrial catalysts from local materials on Mars due to the high cost of transporting catalysts from Earth.
University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) researchers, working with counterparts at Chinese research institutes such as the Deep Space Exploration Laboratory, analyzed and extracted components from Martian meteorites using a robotic AI chemist and synthesized a new catalyst in just six weeks. The optimal formula would take 2,000 years to screen given five different local Martian ores as feedstocks.
The study has successfully verified that AI can automatically develop new materials, which will help oxygen production, base construction, and food production on extraterrestrial planets. Luo Yi, director of Hefei National Research Center for Physical Sciences at the Microscale, says humans can synthesize more chemicals from Martian resources to facilitate deep space exploration.
According to USTC professor Jiang Jun, the AI chemist created a prediction model by studying more than 50,000 relevant chemistry publications. In less than six weeks, the model produced a catalyst composition that showed promise and the ideal synthesis condition.
The catalyst can continuously create oxygen without showing signs of deterioration in a stress test conducted at – 37 degrees Celsius, which is similar to the temperature on Mars, indicating that it may be able to withstand the extreme conditions there, the study reports.