Root NationNewsThe lunar soil has the potential to produce oxygen and fuel

The lunar soil has the potential to produce oxygen and fuel


The lunar soil contains active compounds that can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and fuel, say scientists from China. They are currently studying whether lunar resources can be used to facilitate human exploration of the Moon or other areas.

Nanjing University material scientists Yingfang Yao and Zhigang Zou hope to develop a system that takes advantage of the lunar soil and solar radiation, the two richest resources on the moon. After analyzing the lunar soil brought by China’s Chang’e 5 spacecraft, their team found that the sample contained compounds, including iron- and titanium-rich substances, that could act as a catalyst to produce essential products such as oxygen using sunlight and carbon dioxide.

Based on these observations, the team proposed an extraterrestrial photosynthesis strategy. The system mainly uses lunar soil to electrolyze water extracted from the moon and astronauts’ waste into oxygen and hydrogen produced by sunlight. Carbon dioxide exhaled by the potential inhabitants of the Moon is also collected and combined with hydrogen obtained by electrolysis of water in the process of hydrogenation catalyzed by the lunar soil.

Lunar soil

As a result of this process, hydrocarbons such as methane are formed, which can be used as fuel. The strategy does not use any external energy other than sunlight to produce a variety of desirable products, such as water, oxygen and fuel, that could sustain life on a lunar basis, the researchers said. The team is looking for an opportunity to test the system in space, possibly as part of China’s future missions to the moon.

“We use in-situ environmental resources to minimize rocket payload, and our strategy provides a scenario for a sustainable and affordable extraterrestrial living environment,” Yao says.

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Although the catalytic efficiency of lunar soil is lower than the catalysts available on Earth, Yao says the team is testing various approaches to improve the design, such as melting lunar soil on nanostructured high-entropy material, which is the best catalyst.

Previously, scientists have proposed many strategies for extraterrestrial survival. But most projects require energy sources from Earth. For example, the NASA Perseverance rover brought a device that can use carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere to produce oxygen, but it is powered by a nuclear battery on board.

Місячний ґрунт має потенціал для вироблення кисню та палива

“In the near future, we will see the crewed spaceflight industry developing rapidly,” says Yao. “Just like the ‘Age of Sail’ in the 1600s when hundreds of ships head to the sea, we will enter an ‘Age of Space.’ But if we want to carry out large-scale exploration of the extraterrestrial world, we will need to think of ways to reduce payload, meaning relying on as little supplies from Earth as possible and using extraterrestrial resources instead.”

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