The new unit will help the astronauts to extract oxygen from lunar soil

the moon is not that quantity of oxygen necessary for breathing people, which is obviously harmful to mankind’s plans for the colonization of Earth’s satellite. However, recently, experts figured out how to solve this problem. Researchers from the European space Agency (ESA) has developed a prototype device that can produce oxygen from the regolith – the surface layer of lunar soil.

Recall that during the mission “Apollo” astronauts have been collected numerous samples of lunar soil, which are carefully studied so far. Specialists among other things, trying to figure out how future generations will be able to use this material in their work.

earlier studies have also shown that oxygen is the most abundant element in the lunar regolith (is 40-45% of its weight). The problem is that he is trapped inside of oxide minerals.

To his “pull”, the specialists of the European space research and technology (ESTEC) has built a prototype oxygen plant. It is able to extract vital gas from the regolith (the studies used synthetic analogue).

the Oxygen is not the only potentially useful item that can be extracted from the regolith.Photos ESA, A. Conigili.

the System relies on a method called the electrolysis of molten salts. The regolith is placed in the bowl with the melted calcium chloride (the same salt), heated to 950 DEGC. The regolith remains solid at this rather high temperature.

Then through the mixture to an electric current, which causes the oxygen to stand out from the mix, and then accumulated on the anode. Here it can be collected for further use.

“the Possibility of obtaining oxygen from a source located on the moon, obviously, would be very useful to future colonists. [System] is useful for obtaining oxygenand, as well as for production on the spot of rocket fuel,” says author Beth Lomax (Lomax Beth) from the University of Glasgow.

a Nice bonus is that remaining after the oxygen mix is actually an alloy of metals, which the colonists will also be able to use for different purposes (e.g. construction).

in Other words, oxygen is not the only potentially useful item that can be extracted from the surface layer of lunar soil.

the Image of scanning electronic microscope shows grains of simulated lunar dust to the extraction from them of oxygen.Photo by Beth Lomax / University of Glasgow.

“we are Talking about other useful areas of research that will help to understand what are the most useful additives can be obtained from the regolith and how they can be applied,” explains co-author Alexander Maris (Alexandre Meurisse) of the ESA.

To date, experts have created a prototype device that can produce oxygen from regolith, and proved its efficiency. But in the future they intend to improve the system and send it to the moon to test it in real conditions.

the Artistic representation of a lunar base.Illustration of ESA, P. Carril.

In the end, the scientists would like to have a “pilot plant” that could’ve supported their work. The first tests the feasibility of this approach for selenium can be held in the middle of the 2020-ies, say the developers.

By the way, earlier “News.Science” ( wrote that scientists have found selenium the oldest of the earth’s oxygen. Also, we reported on the creation in Russia of a space mining industry.

Text: News.Science