Lunar Oxygen Plant
This plant is scaled to produce about 1000 metric tons of oxygen per year by extracting it from lunar ilmenite using hydrogen reduction. This figure is based on a design developed by Carbotek, Inc. In this conception, a front-end loader scoops up lunar soil from an open pit mine. The soil is carried by conveyor flights to a beneficiation plant, where the ilmenite is magnetically concentrated. The concentrated ilmenite is fed into a fluidized bed reactor, where the hydrogen extracts some of its oxygen as water. The water is then broken down by electrolysis, the oxygen is captured and stored cryogenically, and the hydrogen is recycled into the reactor. The unused portion of the lunar soil and the slag waste from the reduction process is finally transported to an old pit and used to fill it again.
To minimize the mining operation, the regolith should contain as much ilmenite as possible and the ilmenite should also be in a form (grain size and shape) which will allow concentration. Consequently, detailed evaluation of the potential mine site may be necessary before mining operations begin.
Artist: Pat Rawlings
Courtesy of Carbotek, Inc.
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WebWork: Al Globus, Bryan Yager, and Tugrul Sezen