It could allow Mars colonists access to breathable oxygen and hydrogen fuel.
Researchers from Washington University in St Louis believe they have figured out a new system that could pull significant amounts of oxygen and hydrogen out of the briny water deposits present on the surface of Mars.
The electrolysis process could even improve similar systems on Earth, they say.
"Our Martian brine electrolyzer radically changes the logistical calculus of missions to Mars and beyond," Vijay Ramani, chemical engineering professor at Washington University in St Louis and co-author of the paper appearing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today, said in a statement. "This technology is equally useful on Earth where it opens up the oceans as a viable oxygen and fuel source."
To simulate the Martian surface, the team tested the system at -33 degrees Fahrenheit. The results were impressive. The system can produce 25 times the amount of oxygen as the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) fixed to NASA's Perseverance rover, which is headed to Mars right now, according to the team.
Strangely enough, the impurities present in Martian water could actually end up helping.
"They prevent the water from freezing and also improve the performance of the electrolyzer system by lowering the electrical resistance," research scientist and co-lead author of the paper Shrihari Sankarasubramanian said in the statement.
Air on Demand
The team is now planning to deploy the system to produce hydrogen and oxygen from impure salt water feeds back on Earth.
Oxygen from such a system could end up creating oxygen on demand in submarines or other deep sea exploration vessels.
READ MORE: New tech can get oxygen, fuel from Mars's salty water [Washington University in St. Louis]
More on Martian water: Scientists Just Found Three More Reservoirs of Liquid Water on Mars