Oxygen Separation from Lunar Regolith 2007-01-3107
A novel method for separating oxygen from lunar regolith has recently been granted two US patents. Early research at the system level has demonstrated the viability of this concept for silicon extraction. The focus of this paper is the process thermodynamics and energy scale-up for oxygen extraction. Starting with first principles, the separation of various oxygen-bearing minerals are analyzed with regards to vaporization, ionization, acceleration, separation by transverse electric fields, and condensation for collection of liquid oxygen. The next phase of work studies the geometric considerations of separation to obtain estimates of oxygen purity and throughput. This initial work will assess technical feasibility of oxygen extraction from lunar regolith, and provide a foundation for subsequent studies which must include various second-order effects such as self-shielding and beam diffusion needed to make estimates of throughput and overall efficiency.