NASA wants people to help it to build the technology that will be needed to support putting humans on Mars. Part of that tech is devising a way to use the natural resources on Mars to make the things humans need to survive and live on the planet. One of the most abundant resources on Mars is carbon dioxide.
NASA has announced the CO2 Conversion Challenge that will be run under the Centennial Challenge program. This public content wants participants to find new and novel ways to convert carbon dioxide into useful compounds, such as glucose. This tech will allow the manufacture of products using local and indigenous resources on Mars.
NASA also notes that tech of this sort could be used on Earth to harness waste and atmospheric carbon dioxide as a resource. NASA says that it is impossible to bring everything that is needed to support humans to the Red Planet and this sort of tech is crucial to living on the planet. Carbon and oxygen are the molecular building blocks of sugars says NASA.
The development of a process to produce glucose from carbon dioxide will advance biomanufacturing technology here on Earth. Energy-rich sugars are the preferred microbial energy sources and are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Such a supply of sugars can be used as a feedstock for systems that produce a variety of items. Glucose is the target sugar product in the challenge because it is the easiest to metabolize and offers an optimum conversion efficiency.
The contest has two phases. Phase 1 will have teams submit a design description of a conversion system along with details on the physical-chemical approach to convert carbon dioxide into glucose. Up to five teams will be awarded $50,000 each with winners announced in April 2019. Phase 2 is the construction and demonstration stage carrying a price of up to $750,000 for the winner. Teams wanting to participate can register here.