Lunar Oxygen — The Reduction of Glass by Hydrogen

by Carlton C. Allen, Lockheed Engineering & Sciences, Co, Houston, United States,
David S. McKay, Lockheed Engineering & Sciences, Co, Houston, United States,
Richard V. Morris, Lockheed Engineering & Sciences, Co, Houston, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

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


The direct reduction of volcanic glass by hydrogen has been proposed as a method of extracting oxygen from the lunar soil. Experiments using lunar simulant glasses reacted with flowing hydrogen gas have demonstrated reduction at temperatures from 1000 - 1200°C. For melted samples ferrous iron was reduced to the metal, which formed large crystals at the expense of the glass. Samples held below the melting point rapidly devitrified, and iron was formed from submicrometer crystals of ilmenite and pyroxene. Weight losses of 3.6-4.5%, depending on glass composition, were achieved in 3 hours at 1100°C. A lunar oxygen plant operating at this efficiency and utilizing Apollo 17 orange glass as a feedstock could produce 50 kg of oxygen per ton of soil. The processes of reduction and sintering of lunar soil are synergystic, and could be combined to produce both oxygen and construction material at a moon base.

Subject Headings: Space construction | Moon | Oxygen | Glass | Hydrogen | Lunar materials | Volcanic deposits | Soil gas

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