Space

Found a method of converting moon dust into oxygen

The moon is not the most hospitable place for earthlings: the absence of atmosphere, stable temperature on the surface of our satellite and air makes this white-gray ball above our heads an absolutely unsuitable place for living. At the same time, scientists came up with a new technology for the extraction of oxygen so needed by us directly from the lunar soil - regolith.

Lunar soil contains a huge amount of oxygen

Is there oxygen on the moon?

Despite the fact that oxygen in the thinnest lunarthere is no atmosphere at all, a rather large amount of it is contained in moon dust, which completely covers the surface of our natural satellite. Studies show that approximately 40-50% of the regolith is precisely oxygen, which can be released when exposed to electric current. The current is able to detach oxygen atoms from oxide molecules, solving immediately 2 important tasks: on the one hand, we get a huge amount of free oxygen, and on the other we have a whole bunch of metal alloys that would be extremely useful in the construction of future lunar bases and colonies .

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To test your theory,Researchers from the University of Cambridge used samples of lunar regolith provided by NASA experts. During an experiment to obtain oxygen from lunar soil, it turned out that out of three tons of regolith, approximately a ton of oxygen can be obtained if special electrochemical reactors are used, each of which would be about a meter in height. For their full-fledged work, specialists intend to use solar panels that can accumulate solar energy during a lunar day. For a more stable and uninterrupted supply of energy to the future colony, it may also be necessary to build a nuclear mini-reactor, which, according to scientists, will be installed on the Earth’s satellite in the relatively near future.

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Lunar regolith before electrolysis (left) and after (right)

It’s already officially confirmed,that all metal extracted as a kind of side effect of electrolysis is fully suitable for further processing and operation. So, the by-product contained alloys of iron, aluminum, silicon and calcium, as well as mixtures thereof. This discovery means that the method of electrolysis of the lunar soil can be incredibly valuable even if it turns out that oxygen can be somehow extracted from the alleged reserves of water ice on the moon. In any case, the use of electrolysis of lunar regolith will allow the first settlers to get stable access to oxygen for fuel and livelihoods, as well as a wide range of manufacturing of metal alloys for production even at a great distance from the Earth.