The bottom of the moon contains active compounds that can convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into oxygen and fuel with the help of sunlight. So say a Chinese researcher in a new study. The team is currently investigating whether lunar resources can be used to facilitate or better research by lunar humans.

Some countries and institutions are planning manned bases on the Moon in the not too distant future. For such bases, it would be convenient, of course, to be able to produce them on-site, without having to bring all the resources with rockets from Earth.

Nanjing University’s Chinese materials scientists Zhigang Zou and Yingfang Yao say they have taken the first step in that direction with colleagues from the university and other Chinese institutions.

They want to use the moon’s soil and solar radiation to design a system that is the moon’s two most abundant resources and produce specific substances in the field.

The team analyzed the lunar soil brought back by the Chinese 嫦娥 5 spacecraft and found that steel contained certain compounds, including substances rich in iron and titanium. Dioxide.

A sample of lunar soil brought to Earth by Chang'e 5.

“Alien Photosynthesis”

Based on that observation, the team proposed a strategy for “alien photosynthesis.”

Basically, this system uses lunar soil for solar electrolysis of water extracted from the moon and astronaut’s exhaled breath. Therefore, the water is decomposed into oxygen and hydrogen.

Carbon dioxide exhaled by the inhabitants of the Moon is also captured and combined with hydrogen from electrolysis during the process of hydrogenation. The lunar soil is also used as a catalyst in the process of hydrogenation.

This process produces hydrocarbons (carbon and hydrogen only compounds) such as methane that can be used as fuel. Researchers have also succeeded in producing methanol (fuel alcohol), a compound of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.

This strategy uses only sunlight as energy to produce many desirable products such as water, oxygen and fuel. This may allow you to live on the lunar base.

The team is currently looking for an opportunity to test the system in space, perhaps on a future manned Chinese lunar mission.

A team member of Nanjing University with a sample of moon soil.

Inefficient catalyst

The lunar soil is a less efficient catalyst than some of the soils available on Earth, and the team said the process it devised was not mature enough to survive in an alien environment. I admit.

Yao said the team is testing different approaches to improving the design. One is to melt the lunar soil into a nanostructured, high-entropy material. This makes it a better catalyst.

But that’s not the only problem the team has to overcome, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology astronomer Michael Hecht. According to Hecto, the Chinese team assumes that it is possible to extract liquid carbon dioxide from the lunar “air” at a temperature of -173 degrees Celsius, but New Scientists say that is not possible. He says.

Hect, who specializes in the study of alien planets and led the development of MOXIE equipment at NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, was not involved in this study.

MOXIE equipment is part of a series of previously proposed strategies for surviving across the globe. But like most of those designs, it requires an energy source from Earth. MOXIE can use carbon dioxide from the atmosphere of Mars to produce oxygen, but the equipment is powered by Rover’s atomic batteries.

A sample of the moon brought to Earth by Chang'e 5.

Space age

Despite these issues, Yao is optimistic. “We use in-situ resources from the environment to minimize missile payloads, and our strategy provides a sustainable and affordable alien habitat scenario,” he said. Said.

“In the near future, we will see the rapid development of the human space industry,” Yao said. “Similar to the Age of Discovery in the 1600s, hundreds of ships go out into the sea and enter the” Space Age. ” But if you want to explore the alien world on a large scale, you have to figure out how to do it. To reduce the payload, this means that we should not rely as much as possible on the supply from Earth, but instead use extraterrestrial resources. ”

The Research by researchers from Nanjing University, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Chinese Academy of Space Technology, and University of Science and Technology of China (Hefei) has been published in the journal. Jules† This article is based on a Cell Press press release.

Diagram of the team's strategy to use lunar soil for the production of beneficial substances.

Source: vrt

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