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They reveal that the upper layer of the soil of the Moon contains enough oxygen to supply 8,000 million people for 100,000 years

Posted: 12 Nov 2021 22:18 GMT

The process of extracting oxygen from minerals is simple, but it takes a lot of energy.

John Grant, professor of soil sciences at the University of Southern Cross (Australia), published an article on November 10 in The Conversation magazine in which he explains that the soil of the Moon has enormous mineral reserves rich in oxygen, despite the fact that its atmosphere lacks this precious gas in quantities suitable to sustain plant and animal life.

That soil is full of minerals such as silica, aluminum, and iron and magnesium oxides. They all contain oxygen, but not in a gaseous form that can get into the lungs.

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Grant ensures that the process of extracting oxygen from these minerals it’s simple, “but there is a problem: consumes a lot of energy“.

“To be sustainable, it should be supported by solar energy or other energy sources available on the Moon,” says the scientist.

The lunar regolith (set of minerals that make up its upper rock layer) can be separated from oxygen by electrolysis. On Earth, this process is commonly used in the manufacture of aluminum: it only takes an electrical current to pass through a liquid form of aluminum oxide, called alumina, to separate it from oxygen.

In that case, Grant stresses, oxygen is produced as a by-product, whereas “on the Moon it would be the main product and the aluminum (or other metal) mined would be a potentially useful by-product. “

“A great challenge”

On the other hand, this large-scale process would require heavy industrial equipment to convert solid metal oxide to its liquid form, either by applying heat or by combining it with solvents or electrolytes.

“We have the technology to do this on Earth, but moving that apparatus to the Moon and generating enough power to operate it will be a big challenge“acknowledges the scientist, who assures that the regolith of our natural satellite could contain enough oxygen for 8 billion people lived for 100,000 years.

Grant’s article follows an agreement signed by NASA and the Australian Space Agency last October to send a rover to the Moon with the goal of collecting rocks there and trying to extract breathable oxygen from them.

On the other hand, earlier this year the startup Space Applications Services (based in Belgium) announced that it was building three experimental reactors to improve the oxygen production process through electrolysis. This new technology could be sent to the Moon in 2025, as part of the European Space Agency’s In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) mission.

About the author

Donna Miller

Donna is one of the oldest contributors of Gruntstuff and she has a unique perspective with regards to Science which makes her write news from the Science field. She aims to empower the readers with the delivery of apt factual analysis of various news pieces from Science. Donna has 3.5 years of experience in news-based content creation, and she is now an expert at it. She loves journalism, and that is the reason, she moved from a web content writer to a News writer, and she is loving it. She is a fun-loving woman who has very good connections with every team member. She makes the working environment cheerful which improves the team’s work productivity.

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