Production of Oxygen by Electro-Reduction of Lunar Ores

by B. Mishra, Colorado Sch of Mines, Goklen, United States,
D. L. Olson, Colorado Sch of Mines, Goklen, United States,
J. J. Moore, Colorado Sch of Mines, Goklen, United States,
W. A. Averill, Colorado Sch of Mines, Goklen, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

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


Anorthositic Lunar ores contain approximately 42 wt. pct. of oxygen. An electrolytic dissociation of the ore can provide a rich source of gaseous oxygen with silicon, aluminum, calcium, iron, titanium, etc., as co-deposited metallic by-products. A low temperature chloride or cryolite-based non-consumable electrolyte can be used to extract oxygen on a stable anode and a metal co-deposit in a continuous cell powered by solar energy. Portions of the produced metal can be recirculated as the electrode material or entirely recovered cathodically. Anodically evolved oxygen can be liquified and contained. This process will be substantially less energetically intensive compared to the electrolysis of molten ore. The process also gives a wider choice of construction material owing to its low operating temperature. A series of alternate anode-cathode arrangement can be used to continuously recover oxygen and solid metallic deposits. This process will require a one time transportation of only the salt electrolyte. Evaluation of the technical viability and economic feasibility of this concept is worth exploring. This proposed concept is essentially aimed at providing a substantially low temperature process to lower the energy requirements and to solve some of the construction material problems associated with high temperature corrosive methods attempted earlier for the production of oxygen on the moon. A comprehensive review of other suggested methods has also been done.

Subject Headings: Temperature effects | Moon | Materials processing | Construction materials | Feasibility studies | Space exploration | Solar power

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