Scientist devises a photo voltaic reactor to make water and oxygen from moon rocks


Working over a ten yr interval on the Plataforma Photo voltaic de Almeria (CIEMAT) Denk has designed and constructed a tool to make sufficient oxygen and water for six to eight astronauts, powered by a thermal photo voltaic reactor. In 2017 it accomplished a six-month check run.

The concept is just not new; simply the implementation.

“From the start folks have been pondering this most likely must be finished with a photo voltaic furnace, as a result of on the Moon there may be not very a lot to warmth a system that you need to use; photovoltaics with electrical energy or a nuclear reactor or concentrated photo voltaic radiation,” mentioned Denk, who has expertise in concentrating photo voltaic and in particles engineering.

“After the Apollo missions, scientists had lots of concepts of how you can make oxygen on the Moon, as a result of each materials that you simply carry from Earth prices cash. For each kilogram of payload you want lots of of kilograms of gas.”

Denk’s easy photo voltaic reactor may chemically break up water from lunar soil, and electrolysis may then break up the H2O into oxygen and hydrogen. However few different makes an attempt used photo voltaic reactors, and ones that did had flawed designs, as a result of undersizing the photo voltaic concentrator to warmth the reactor – and none exceeded bench scale.

“Mine is the true measurement you’d construct on the Moon to make oxygen for a crew of six or eight, so there isn’t any upscaling wanted later. I’ve additionally prolonged my use of fluidized beds. It is not solely the reactor itself, however additionally it is the availability traces and the elimination pipe for the particles,” mentioned Denk of his fluidized mattress photo voltaic reactor design. In a fluidized mattress reactor, particles behave like liquid.

“It appears identical to boiling liquid. If you happen to lookup shut you see it transfer very wildly and the identical factor occurs with fluidized particles. So you will have superb mixing and superb contact between the particles and the fuel. The result’s a really homogeneous temperature and environment friendly chemistry,” he defined.

The regolith would want pre-treatment to easy the particles out, as a result of not like rounded particles weathered by ambiance and water on Earth, lunar regolith particles are unusual shapes with sharp edges, as there isn’t any ambiance on the Moon to put on them down. Pretreating them “spherical” then sieving for the right fraction of the grain measurement could be vital for the secure operation of the fluidized mattress reactor.

Denk was initially impressed by a NASA Centennial problem in 2008 for oxygen from Moon rock. “They put all of the questions that they’ve however they haven’t any cash to reply them to the general public and should you succeed you possibly can win $2 million.”

The burden restrict was so low, 50 kg, that NASA’s problem expired with no takers. Denk’s can course of 25 kg of particle load in lower than an hour and at the moment weighs 400 kg. He thinks he can cut back the burden.

However, ten years later, he has met the 2 different situations: that it may produce 2.5 kg of oxygen in 4 hours, and that electrical energy use mustn’t surpbad 10 kW. The chemical response is usually powered by the photo voltaic reactor, and would use lower than 5 kW of electrical energy, principally for the second step; splitting oxygen from hydrogen with electrolysis.

He has demonstrated step one, making 700 g of water in a single hour – which might allow making 2.5 g of oxygen in four hours utilizing electrolysis, a confirmed expertise, however that may want extra funding.

Water produced in a photo voltaic reactor for the MoonWith the profitable check of this photo voltaic reactor design, Denk has achieved step one, creating H2O on the Moon utilizing photo voltaic thermal vitality. For the second step, photo voltaic electrolysis would break the H2O into hydrogen and oxygen.

His course of makes use of ilmenite (TiO3), an iron oxide discovered within the “darkish” areas of the Moon. It will be dug up by a small robotic and carried to the reactor. Denk likes the Rbador digging robotic, with opposing rotating drums that stop it from propelling off-surface by the power of digging in lunar gravity (one-sixth Earth gravity).

How this may break up H2O and oxygen from lunar soil:

The chemical reactions to make oxygen and water would contain one import from Earth, hydrogen; however simply initially.

“The hydrogen could be only for the primary few hours. Then that will be recycled with the electrolyzer,” he defined. “Even should you carry hydrogen from Earth and get oxygen from the Moon for making rocket gas, you save practically 90% of the burden. Hydrogen is the lightest component. Oxygen is far heavier.”

He described the two-step course of:

+ The primary part is the iron-titanium oxide – ilmenite (FeTiO3). To take away the oxygen, you add hydrogen so it turns into water. H2O comes out of step one. FeTiO3 + H2 + photo voltaic warmth – Fe + TiO2 + H2O

+ The second step is in an electrolyzer utilizing the product water from the reactor. The water is break up to supply hydrogen and oxygen. H2O + electrical energy ? H2 + zero.5O2

The oxygen is the product and the hydrogen will get returned to the method.

The Moon’s very best photo voltaic useful resource

The Moon has very best situations for making photo voltaic fuels, as a result of chemical reactions to separate oxygen and hydrogen require very excessive temperatures, and work greatest when they’re steady. The Moon’s annual regular photo voltaic irradiation is sort of 6,000 kWh per sq. meter per yr, and lunar days are 14 earth-days lengthy; 354 hours.

“Daylight is 2 weeks with out interruption, after which you will have the identical half-month of darkish as evening. So should you want three hours to show it on, it is not a giant downside. There is no such thing as a ambiance on the Moon, and there’s no climate, no clouds, so you actually can function from dawn to sundown at full energy for every half-month,” Denk mentioned.

Concentrated photo voltaic furnaces (see Process II), are capable of obtain very excessive temperatures. However at above 1050 C, the Moon’s regolith particles tended to gum up the works by glueing collectively; a course of known as sintering.

“The chemical response begins to be working from 800 C however sintering begins to be an issue at 1,zero50 C levels, so my purpose was to not surpbad the 1000 C,” he defined. “I achieved a bit greater than 970 C and the utmost was hardly above 1000 C. So I had a temperature within the mattress of no more than 30 up and down, for the best potential common temperature with out sintering.”

With the profitable check of this photo voltaic reactor design, Denk has achieved step one, creating H2O on the Moon utilizing photo voltaic thermal vitality. For the second step, photo voltaic electrolysis would break the H2O into hydrogen and oxygen.

Analysis Report: Regolith utilizing Concentrated Photo voltaic Vitality


Roscosmos: Worldwide Area Exploration to Proceed Regardless of Geopolitical Scenario

Paris (Sputnik) Oct 10, 2017

Russian state house company claims that sophisticated geopolitical scenario is unlikely to have a unfavourable impression on the event of the worldwide cooperation in house exploration.

Difficult geopolitical scenario is unlikely to have a unfavourable impression on the event of the worldwide cooperation in house exploration, Russia’s Roscosmos state house company Deputy Dire … learn extra

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