A potentially better way to make oxygen for astronauts in space using magnetism has been proposed by an international team of scientists, including a University of Warwick chemist.

Keeping astronauts breathing aboard the International Space Station and other space vehicles is a complicated and costly process.

As humans plan future missions to the Moon or Mars better technology will be needed.

Lead author Álvaro Romero-Calvo says that "on the International Space Station, oxygen is generated using an electrolytic cell that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen.

 The groups have developed a procedure to detach gas bubbles from electrode surfaces in microgravity environments generated for 9.2s at the Bremen Drop Tower.

This study demonstrates for the first time gas bubbles can be 'attracted to' and 'repelled from' a simple neodymium magnet in microgravity by immersing it in different types of aqueous solution.

The research could open up new avenues for scientists and engineers developing oxygen systems as well as other space research involving liquid-to-gas phase changes.

Dr. Brinkert says that, these effects have tremendous consequences for the further development of phase separation systems, such as for long-term space missions.

They say. The efficient oxygen and, hydrogen production in water (photo-)electrolyzer systems can be achieved even in the near-absence of the buoyant-force.

Professor Hanspeter Schaub of University of Colorado says that "after years of analytical and computational research, being able to use this concept will function in the zero-gravity space environment."