Hydrogen Plasma Reduction of Lunar Regolith for In-Space Fabrication

Period of Performance: 01/01/2006 - 12/31/2006

$70K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Plasma Processes, LLC.
4914 Moores Mill Road Array
Huntsville, AL 35811
Principal Investigator
Firm POC

Abstract

Tools for extracting resources from the moon are needed to support future space missions. Of particular interest is the production of raw materials for in-space fabrication. In addition, oxygen and water for habitat and propulsion purposes is needed. The only practical source for these materials is the decomposition of lunar soil, regolith. Proposed herein is an innovative hydrogen plasma reduction technique for the production of nanosize metal powders and water from lunar regolith. This technique is characterized by its high temperatures and rapid quenching. Due to the extremely high temperatures involved, material injected into the plasma flame can be vaporized and dissociated very rapidly into elemental form. Rapid quenching of the vapor prevents the growth of nucleated products while providing insufficient time for them to recombine with the oxygen. This allows the possibility of producing nanosize metal powders and the generation of water vapor. The result of this program will be the development of a lunar regolith hydrogen plasma reduction method for producing nanosize metal powders for in-space fabrication and water vapor for life-support, habitat, and propulsion use.