Moon dust can be an oxygen source


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Moon dust or regolith contains a large amount of oxygen mixed with dust in the form of oxides. Such an unexpected conclusion was drawn by specialists from the University of Glasgow in Scotland, who offered the opportunity to create a new type of facility to produce gas that is useful on a large scale for humanity. If the ambitious plan works, full-fledged lunar colonies and long-term settlements can be built in the near future. How exactly will we finally start producing oxygen on the moon? Let's try to find out together in this article.

Large amounts of oxygen can be hidden in the moon dust

Is it possible to generate oxygen from regolith?

The ability to extract oxygen from a resource that is literally under the feet of astronauts would be a good foundation for the prosperity of future human colonies on the moon. Chemist Beth Lomax from the University of Glasgow believes that the first step in the development of the natural earth satellite should be to focus the scientists on extracting oxygen from the lunar regolith, which is not only for human respiration but also can also be used for local rocket fuel production. As an example, the scientist cites the installation that Lomax and his team created at the European Center for Space Research and Technology in the Netherlands.

Using lunar soil samples from previous expeditions, the researchers believe that most of the lunar surface is made up of loose dusts, stones, and dirt, of which 40 to 45% of the total mass is the substance of interest – oxygen.

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According to the science portal sciencealert.com, scientists have already tried to generate oxygen from moon dust with a copy of the regolith called LunaR regolith simulant. Unfortunately, these attempts were unsuccessful – due to difficulties in extraction, the amount of gas obtained from the experiment did not allow the technology to be brought up to the required level. However, the Lomax team managed to do the unbelievable: with the method of electrolysis of molten salt, the scientist was able to do something that nobody had done before.

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Oxygen from the moon regolith can be an excellent basis for the creation of the moon bases of the future

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In order to release a large amount of oxygen from moon dust, scientists of the future must place regolith in special grids that can withstand a temperature rise of up to 950 degrees Celsius. Next, calcium chloride, a strong electrolyte, is added to the regolith and electrical current is also supplied. A similar process extracts oxygen and transfers salts to the anode, from where they can be easily removed. Scientists believe that a number of measures help to extract up to 96 percent of the oxygen from the regolith while the remaining part of the moon dust can be used as a mixture of metal alloys, which is undoubtedly a pleasant additional bonus. The researcher – materials scientist Alexander Meriss from the European Space Agency claims that studying the properties of the substance that comes from the regolith can help develop new directions for further exploration of alloys and their properties. Perhaps some of them can be used in 3D printing of buildings, solving yet another human problem by considering the prospects of moon colonization.

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