Solid Oxide Electrolyzer Cells (SOEC)
Could glass be the key to life on Mars?
Is life possible on other planets? The US space agency NASA has sent its rover Perseverance to Mars in July 2020 in an effort to answer this question. Perseverance landed on Mars in February 2021 with seven unique instruments aboard. They will help to explore the planet better than ever before. One of the most exciting is the MOXIE (“Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment”, with ISRU standing for “In-Situ Resource Utilization”). The experiment attempts to extract oxygen from the carbon dioxide of the Mars atmosphere by electrolysis for the first time. MOXIE uses a solid oxide electrolysis (SOXE) stack developed by the US company OXEon Energy. On its journey through space, the stack is exposed to extreme conditions: it must not only withstand the vibrations of the rocket launch and the landing impact, but also function in temperatures ranging from -55 °C to over 800 °C. To maintain the high efficiency of the stack over the duration of the mission, OXEon utilizes special glass-ceramic sealants from SCHOTT.
How MOXIE works
MOXIE uses a solid oxide electrolysis (SOXE) stack for converting CO2 to O2, developed by OXEon Energy. Its working elements consist of stacked electrolyte-supported cells that are coated with a cathode on one side and an anode on the other. Interconnected plates separate and direct the gases through the stack. These plates are sealed by SCHOTT’s highly temperature-resistant and leak-tight glass-ceramic.
When CO2 flows over the cathode under an applied electrical potential, a reaction occurs and it is electrolyzed. The CO is exhausted and the oxygen ion is electrochemically driven through the SOXE to the anode where it is oxidized. The O-atoms combine to produce O2.