After analyzing samples from the Chang’e 5 mission, Chinese scientists found that lunar soil contains components that allow carbon dioxide to be converted into oxygen and fuel. The results of research describing the proposed process for “extraterrestrial photosynthesis” appeared Thursday in the scientific journal Joule.
Yingfang Yao and Zhigang Zou are researchers at Nanjing University in China. They hope to design a system with their team that uses lunar soil and solar radiation — the two most abundant resources available on the Silver Globe’s surface — to produce the products needed for lunar exploration.
The researchers analyzed lunar soil samples brought to Earth as part of the Chinese mission of the Chang’e 5 spacecraft. They found that the samples contain iron- and titanium-rich materials that can serve as catalysts for the production of desired products with the help of carbon dioxide and sunlight, such as oxygen .
The following strategy for “extraterrestrial photosynthesis” has been proposed: lunar soil will be used to analyze water extracted from the moon and the air exhaled by astronauts. In this way, oxygen and hydrogen will be formed, and the energy for this will be derived from sunlight. In addition, the carbon dioxide exhaled by the astronauts will be collected. The carbon dioxide will then be used to make hydrocarbons during the catalytic hydrogenation process on the Moon. In this way, hydrocarbons such as methane can be produced for use as a fuel.
There is no need to provide external power other than sunlight for the entire process. In this way, you can get the required products necessary for the functioning of the lunar base: water, oxygen and fuel. Scientists hope to test the concept in the future on one of China’s future lunar missions.
So far, various strategies for surviving at a base created on an alien orb have been proposed, but most of them require a power supply from Earth. For example, the American Perseverance Chariot has an instrument capable of producing oxygen from carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere, but requires energy from a radioisotope generator (from the decay of radioactive plutonium).
“In the near future, we will witness the rapid development of the manned aviation industry. Just as in the age of sail hundreds of years ago, hundreds of ships were bound for the seas, now we will enter the space age. But if we want to conduct large-scale exploration of extraterrestrial worlds, we must That we find ways to reduce the amount taken in. Based on the small amounts of resources taken out from the Earth and use extraterrestrial resources instead,” Yingfang Yao concluded.
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