Colonization of the solar system will not be possible without largely automating with robots and artificial intelligence the tasks of building permanent bases capable of housing countless people. a wise man, We saw an example of this in our recent work with an AI chemist related to the large-scale production of oxygen on Mars.

Both Arthur Clarke and Isaac Asimov predicted this in the 21stI Exploration and colonization of the solar system in the century will be done only by robots and artificial intelligence. Notably, Clark predicted the WWW as early as the 1960s, giving us all the more reason to take his other predictions seriously.

Everyone dreams of lunar colonies and space colonies resulting from the work of Gerard Kitchens O’Neill. But undoubtedly the thing that makes us dream the most is settlements on Mars. However, as we know, a trip to Mars and the establishment of a permanent base on the Red Planet is far from simple and will initially be very expensive as the space industry, exactly the same type as the roughly O’ Neil had imagined. , will not take place with robotic exploitation of the Moon and asteroids.

The challenges for the first Mars colonists will be the need for oxygen to breathe. Fortunately, there are regions with water on Mars and we can consider electrolyzing it with electric currents produced by solar panels (for the record the first electrolysis of water was performed by two British chemists, William Nicholson and Anthony Carlisle in 1800 was, a few weeks later) after the invention of the first electric battery by the Italian Alessandro Volta). However, a good yield will be required, because the radiation intensity at the surface of Mars is not the intensity at the surface of Earth or the Moon.

Already, on our blue planet, we use electrodes with catalysts to reduce the amount of electrical energy needed to produce oxygen. But bringing the catalyst from Earth would be expensive, so a team led by Professor Luo Yi, Professor Jiang Jun and Professor Shang Weiwei of the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), wondered. Was there a way to produce an effective catalyst from Martian soil?

And this is indeed the case, as these researchers demonstrate in an article published nature synthesisWhere they tell that they used artificial intelligence techniques for this.

They began to obtain samples of numerous meteorites of varying nature, which we know on Earth to be of Martian origin, having fallen into space several million years after being ejected from the Red Planet, during a violent asteroid impact. Had arrived after travelling. Its surface.

The chemical composition of these Martian soil samples was analyzed using the technique Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), or in French laser-induced plasma atomic emission spectrometry.

A video showing the work of Chinese researchers. To get a fairly accurate French translation, click on the white rectangle at the bottom right. The English subtitles should then appear. Then click on the nut to the right of the rectangle, then on “Subtitles” and finally on “Translate automatically”. Select “French”. © AI-Chemist Group at University of Science and Technology of China, Science, Medical Express, Tech Explore

An AI that does 2,000 years of work of a human chemist in two months

An artificial intelligence is fed from the composition of these meteorites and controls the various primary operations of processing them to robotically extract the metal hydroxides which will be tested on electrodes.

The same artificial intelligence will then carry out quantum chemistry and molecular dynamics simulations for 30,000 possible mixtures of hydroxides. These simulations and the possible results related to the effectiveness of the catalysts generated from these mixtures are analyzed by a neural network to enable even more efficiently predicting the properties of a given mixture of metal hydroxides taken from lunar soil .

Actual testing of these mixtures was conducted confirming that good potential catalysts were found and that the oxygen-producing electrolysis reaction was carried out efficiently under average Martian temperature conditions of approximately -37 °C, low for one of these catalysts. On temperature.

What’s great is the AI-powered search operations. It took him only two months, whereas it can be estimated that a human chemist would have had to conduct similar experiments for 2,000 years to obtain the same results.

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