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Metals and Oxygen Mining from Meteorites, Asteroids and Planets using Reusable Ionic LiquidsIn order for humans to explore beyond Low Earth Orbit both safely and economically, it will be essential to learn how to make use of in situ materials and energy in an environment much different than on earth. Precursor robotic missions will be necessary to determine what resources will be available and to demonstrate the capabilities for their use. To that end, we have recently been studying acidic Ionic Liquid (IL) systems for use in a low temperature (< 200 C) process to solubilize regolith, and to extract, as water, the oxygen available in metal oxides. Using this method, we have solubilized lunar regolith simulant (JSC-1A), as well as extraterrestrial materials in the form of meteorites, and have extracted up to 80% of the available oxygen. Moreover, by using a hydrogen gas electrode, we have shown that the IL can be regenerated at the anode and metals (e.g. iron) can be plated onto the cathode. These results indicate that IL processing is an excellent candidate for extracting oxygen in situ, for life support and propulsion, and for extracting metals to be used as feedstock in fabrication processes. We have obtained small amounts of meteorite materials believed by meteoriticists to have originated from our moon, Mars, and the asteroid Vesta, and were able to solubilize those using acidic IL systems. From the Vesta meteorite, we were able to extract about 60% of the available oxygen as water. As far as is known, this is the first time that extraterrestrial/earth hybrid water has been obtained. NMR analysis provided proof that the liquid retrieved is indeed water. We have also been able to electro-plate nickel and iron contained in meteorite material. By varying voltage they can be plated separately (electro-winning), and we plan to soon have sufficient quantities to form usable parts utilizing the additive manufacturing process.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Karr, Laurel J.
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Paley, Mark S.
(AZ Technology, Inc. Huntsville, AL, United States)
Marone, Matthew J.
(Mercer Univ. Macon, GA, United States)
Kaukler, William F.
(Alabama Univ. Huntsville, AL, United States)
Curreri, Peter A.
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Date Acquired
August 27, 2013
Publication Date
November 11, 2012
Subject Category
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Meeting: 2012 PISCES Conference, Pioneering Planetary Surface Systems Technologies and Capabilities
Location: Waikoloa, HI
Country: United States
Start Date: November 11, 2012
End Date: November 15, 2012
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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