Sulfur as a Lunar Resource

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by G. Heiken, Clemson Univ, Clemson, United States,
D. Vaniman, Clemson Univ, Clemson, United States,
H. Hawkins, Clemson Univ, Clemson, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Engineering, Construction, and Operations in Space III:

Abstract: Sulfur on the Moon may prove to be a satisfactory replacement in some uses for lighter volatile elements and their compounds. Although sulfur is not richly concentrated on the Moon, it is present in sufficient abundance and associated with other potentially useful elements that make the mining of lunar sulfur worth serious consideration. The best place to collect sulfur on the Moon is from mare soils and rocks. High-titanium mare basaltic lavas have sulfur contents in the range of 0.16% to 0.27% by weight. Most of the sulfur in the basaltic lavas occurs as the mineral troilite (FeS), and more rarely as sphalerite, [(Zn,Fe)S]. The purpose of this study is to quantify the volumes and size distributions of FeS minerals in high-Ti lavas from the lunar maria. The mineral troilite makes up 0.18 to 1.05% by volume of these lavas, with grain widths ranging from <0.3 to 68 μm. Beneficiation by crushing alone will not provide adequate sulfur to justify the energy expended. Extraction of some sulfur or sulfur compounds will be an inevitable result of heating lunar regolith or crushed lunar rocks. Thermal processing of mildly crushed regolith from high-Ti basaltic lava areas at 1100°C, under vacuum or perhaps accompanied by through-flow of a reactive gas such as H2, has the potential of yielding about one metric ton of sulfur from each 1000 m3 of processed regolith.

Subject Headings: Sulfur | Lunar materials | Moon | Volcanic deposits | Minerals | Mines and mining | Grain (material) | Temperature effects |

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