Assuming we collect sulfuric acid from Venus clouds using some sort of airship, what would be the best way of turning this into hydrogen and oxygen? I came across something called the hybrid sulfur cycle which goes like this:

$\require{mhchem}\ce{H2SO4(aq) → H2O(g) + SO2(g) + \frac{1}{2} O2(g)}\ \ \ \ \text{(thermochemical, T > 800 °C)}$

$\ce{SO2(aq) + 2 H2O(l) → H2SO4(aq) + H2(g)}\ \ \ \ \text{(electrochemical, T = 80-120 °C)}$

Are there better ways than this? I assume you can also somehow exploit the fact that it is quite hot on Venus to get the temperature required for the reaction. Like go down to a level with, say, 200 degrees Celsius, and use a heat-pump to increase the temperature further. I have no idea if that works for high temperatures.

The assumption here is that both hydrogen and oxygen are useful chemical for long term survival. I will assume the electrochemical energy will likely come from solar cells, as Venus gets quite a lot of sunlight. But I was wondering if the process could be made more efficient by utilizing the high temperature already existing on Venus. Planetary surface is probably unlikely as the pressure is too high, so it would be at a higher altitude.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm just curious what an airship will do with the hydrogen and oxygen. I'm wondering if the electrochemical step require (in reality) more power (electrical) than could ever recovered propulsively by burning the two gases. Are you thinking of a fuel cell as a 'battery'? I found this and this. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 9, 2016 at 1:57
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh no, I don't see this as a net-energy production. I'll update the question. $\endgroup$ Aug 9, 2016 at 13:52
  • $\begingroup$ Great, thanks! When you say "..both hydrogen and oxygen are useful chemical for long term survival." do you mean survival of humans on venus or do you mean survival of one or more spacecraft/lander/rover on the surface? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 9, 2016 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ By humans. I imagine hydrogen could be used with CO2 together with the sabatier reaction to produce methane e.g. which is fairly practical to store for later energy production. Alternatively making ethylene. With CO2+H2 you got all in principle for making a lot different forms of artificial polymers. Could be useful for expanding a habitat. $\endgroup$ Aug 11, 2016 at 7:11
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    $\begingroup$ You could also ask about the chemistry part in chemistry stackexchange (if you haven't already) - temperatures, catalysts and their degradation, byproducts that could slow down the reaction, etc. and then bring some of that info back here for a more "space exploration" perspective - issues about the plane, atmosphere, keeping people alive on the surface, etc. I like you question a lot! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 11, 2016 at 10:38

1 Answer 1


I don't agree.

The atmosphere of Venus is about 30 ppm $ H_2O $ and about 1 to 2.5 ppm $ H_2SO_4 $. (According to Planetary Sciences 2nd ed. by De Pater & Lissauer, 2010, p. 88.)

It would make more sense to me to focus on the more readily available resources, particularly since water electrolysis does not require high temperatures and can therefore be more easily done with simple and light-weight equipment high up in the cooler parts of the atmosphere where the airship would presumably operate. Solar power would of course also be a problem down where the temperatures are high.

  • $\begingroup$ Strange... anything I've ever read on Venus cloud always states they are primarily made of sulfuric acid. Now if you can collect water directly that would have been awesome. Would probably make more sense to just get oxygen from giving the water to plants though. $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2018 at 0:15
  • $\begingroup$ It is true that the clouds are made of sulfuric acid but it is still dissolved in water. It might be more concentrated in the clouds than in the the atmosphere overall (I didn't check that part). If you just want oxygen I think CO2 electrolysis is probably the way to go if the equipment isn't over mass budget. $\endgroup$
    – user25972
    Jul 29, 2018 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ @ErikEngheim According to this answer space.stackexchange.com/questions/27467/… almost all the water is beneath the clouds. $\endgroup$
    – Cornelis
    Aug 10, 2019 at 9:35

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