Plasma Reduction of Lunar Regolith for In-Space Fabrication
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4914 Moores Mill Road, Huntsville, AL, 35811
AbstractTools for extracting resources from the moon are needed to support future space missions. Of particular interest is the production of gases and metals for life support, propulsion, and in-space fabrication. The only practical source for these materials is the decomposition of lunar regolith. Described herein is an innovative plasma reduction technique for the production of gases and metal powders. This technique is characterized by its high temperatures and rapid quenching. During Phase 1, silicon, iron, and magnesium in crystalline form were produced using the plasma reduction technique. Based on the analysis of captured gas samples and the fact that metallic species were produced, oxygen was also evolved as a result of plasma processing. During Phase 2, the plasma techniques developed during Phase 1 will be optimized. Techniques to separate and collect pure oxygen from the regolith and the processing gases will be developed. Steps will be taken to reduce the power requirements needed for plasma reduction. Additional metals such as aluminum, titanium, and calcium will also be produced by varying processing parameters. Precise measurement of particle temperature and velocity will be performed and correlated with processing parameters and thermodynamic calculations so that these objectives can be met.
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