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Oxygen production by pyrolysis of lunar regolithOxygen was identified as the most important product of initial lunar materials processing efforts. A source of oxygen on the Moon provides an alternative to the costly transport of propellant to the Moon or to low earth orbit. Pyrolysis, or vapor-phase reduction, involves heating a feedstock to temperatures sufficient to decompose the constituent metal oxides and release oxygen. The process relies on the vaporization of metal oxides in the form of reduced suboxides or atomic species. The reduced species must then be condensed without re-oxidizing, yielding oxygen in the gas phase. The feasibility of obtaining oxygen from common lunar minerals was demonstrated using solar furnace experiments. These results are discussed together with chemical equilibrium models which were extended to include the multicomponent oxides used in experiments. For the first time, both experiments and theoretical models dealt with the complex oxides that make up potential lunar feedstocks. Two major conclusions are drawn from this preliminary work. First, unbeneficiated regolith is a suitable feedstock for pyrolysis. Second, the process can operate at moderate temperatures, circa 2000 K, which could be supplied by direct solar or electrical energy. In addition to these advantages in choice of feedstock and energy source, the pyrolysis process requires no chemicals or reagents, making it an attractive process for lunar oxygen production.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Legacy CDMS
Document Type
Conference Paper
Senior, Constance L.
(PSI Technology Co. Andover, MA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1991
Publication Information
Publication: Arizona Univ., Resources of Near-Earth Space: Abstracts
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Exploration
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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