Already, scientists are thinking about what and how the participants of the first Martian missions will make the things they need - oxygen, water, building materials and much more. One of the options is to collect carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere (which is 95, 32% CO2) and turn it into multifunctional "bricks" for the synthesis of organic elements.
Researchers at the University of California have designed a bioreactor that can do this with high efficiency using a mixture of bacteria and an array of nanowires.
The bioreactor works on the same principle as the natural process of photosynthesis in plants, during which they use sunlight to convert CO2 into sugars for energy. The bioreactor also uses water and the bacteria Sporomusa ovata, placed in an array of nanowires to stimulate the process.
Silicon nanowires, a hundredth of a human hair thick, act as a solar collector. By absorbing light, generating electrons and feeding them to the bacteria living among them, the nanowires trigger a chemical process that allows bacteria to convert CO2 and water into acetate and oxygen.
On Mars, acetate molecules can be used as building blocks for the production of organic molecules - the basis for future fuels, plastics or drugs. In this case, the released oxygen can be used to maintain the artificial atmosphere at a level of 20%, which corresponds to the parameters of the Earth.