At 24:40 into this lecture, technology development scientist Laurent Sibille briefly describes an experiment done with a regolith simulant for Lunar Mare. The process of producing oxygen and reusing methane et cetera doesn't seem to be relevant to the actual melting of regolith to metal.

Does the surface of the Moon really turn into solid metal if one simply concentrates sunlight on it?

If that is solid metal, it must be easy to heat it again and use a centrifuge, magnetism or chemical reactions to separate the different pure metals. But for a landing pad or a road or most structures, maybe a random iron-magnesium-titanium alloy works very well?

enter image description here

Thermal energy having turned regolith into apparently solid metal lumps. From a slide in Sibille's lecture at SSERVI.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There are some metal oxides which could be separated by heat only into metal and oxygen, quicksilver for instance. But I don't believe that this is possible with the oxides of aluminium, magnesium or iron. Is there any information about the composition of those solid metal lumps? But the words "carbothermal reduction" tell me that heat and carbon was used for reduction. This is done on earth to get iron from ore, but not with aluminium and magnesium where reduction by electrolysis is used. It should be noted that magnesium burns in a carbon dioxide atmosphere. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Apr 30 '17 at 9:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ According to this page isru.nasa.gov/Carbothermal.html, it is not sunlight alone, it is the combination of methane gas and concentrated sunlight. The generated water vapour is electrolyzed to form oxygen and hydrogen in a different step. The process using methane is indeed relevant for getting metal from regolith. Melting alone without methane would not do it. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Apr 30 '17 at 11:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.