NASA Grant Explores Extraction of Metals from Lunar Dust
UC STAFF | November 08, 2017 | UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
Evgeny Shafirovich, Ph.D., professor in Department of Mechanical Engineering
"Lynntech invited us to participate because of our experience in the area of In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), particularly our recent research with lunar and Martian regolith simulants, supported by NASA," Shafirovich said.
Long-term occupation of space requires a supply of metal suitable for fabrication of various components and structures. If everything had to be delivered from Earth, the cost would be overwhelming. Fortunately, the Moon and other space bodies are rich in the desired metallic elements.
This project investigates development of a process for the extraction of metals in a form suitable for use in additive manufacturing.
"Lynntech's process requires relatively low temperatures, recycles all the reagents, and produces oxygen as a byproduct," he said.
The one-year Phase I will demonstrate the reduction, volatilization, and powder formation steps for metals using regolith simulant as the feedstock.
"Recovered metal powders will be thoroughly characterized for use in powder-based additive manufacturing processes," he added.
The research project also has potential non-NASA commercial applications.