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Molten Regolith Electrolysis: The Extraction of Oxygen from Lunar Regolith

Award Information
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Branch: N/A
Contract: 80NSSC20C0337
Agency Tracking Number: 204634
Amount: $124,951.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: Z12
Solicitation Number: SBIR_20_P1
Solicitation Year: 2020
Award Year: 2020
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2020-08-19
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2021-03-01
Small Business Information
5000 Gulf Freeway, Exploration Research Park, Bldg 4
Houston, TX 77023-4634
United States
DUNS: 081060079
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Elliot Carol
 (646) 455-8382
Business Contact
 Elliot Carol
Phone: (646) 455-8382
Research Institution

Molten regolith electrolysis (MRE)nbsp;is a high-temperature electrolytic process in which the naturally high-oxide lunar regolith is dissolved in a molten oxide solvent comprising already liquefied regolith and by the action of electric current is dissociated to electrowin liquid metal as a product and oxygen as a by-product. The process involves using an extractor reactor and a refiner reactor. The liquid metals can be extracted in sequence according to the stabilities of their oxides as expressed by the values of the free energy of oxide formation (e.g. Cr, Mn, Fe, Si, Ti, Al, Mg, and Ca). The Moon is rich in mineral resources capable of sustaining the production of oxygen, Si, and a variety of metals, (e.g., Fe, Al, and Ti). However, the extraction of these elements will require the use of rather different processes from those used on Earth 10. For example, mineral beneficiation has been an enduring paradigm in terrestrial extractive metallurgy for economic reasons but the reliance on such unit operations as froth flotation with its attendant consumption of huge quantities of water summarily disqualifies beneficiation from consideration in the lunar setting. To eliminate the need for beneficiation prior to processing and to minimize the import of consumable reagents from Earth, the project team proposes to advance MRE for the production of oxygen using lunar regolith as feedstock that has not been subjected to any form of pretreatment.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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