Soil on the moon contains active compounds that can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and fuels, scientists in China report May 5 in the journal Joule. They are now exploring whether lunar resources can be used to facilitate human exploration on the moon or beyond.
Nanjing University material scientists Yingfang Yao and Zhigang Zou hope to design a system that takes advantage of lunar soil and solar radiation, the two most abundant resources on the moon. After analyzing the lunar soil brought back by China’s Chang’e 5 spacecraft, their team found the sample contains compounds—including iron-rich and titanium-rich substances—that could work as a catalyst to make desired products such as oxygen using sunlight and carbon dioxide.
Based on the observation, the team proposed an “extraterrestrial photosynthesis” strategy. Mainly, the system uses lunar soil to electrolyze water extracted from the moon and in astronauts’ breathing exhaust into oxygen and hydrogen powered by sunlight. The carbon dioxide exhaled by moon inhabitants is also collected and combined with hydrogen from water electrolysis during a hydrogenation process catalyzed by lunar soil.
The process yields hydrocarbons such as methane, which could be used as fuel. The strategy uses no external energy but sunlight to produce a variety of desirable products such as water, oxygen, and fuel that could support life on a moonbase, the researchers say. The team is looking for an opportunity to test the system in space, likely with China’s future crewed lunar missions.
“We use in-situ environmental resources to minimize rocket payload, and our strategy provides a scenario for a sustainable and affordable extraterrestrial living environment,” Yao says.
While the catalytic efficiency of lunar soil is less than catalysts available on Earth, Yao says the team is testing different approaches to improve the design, such as melting the lunar soil into a nanostructured high-entropy material, which is a better catalyst.
Previously, scientists have proposed many strategies for extraterrestrial survival. But most designs require energy sources from Earth. For example, NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover brought an instrument that can use carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere to make oxygen, but it’s powered by a nuclear battery onboard.
“In the near future, we will see the crewed spaceflight industry developing rapidly,” says Yao. “Just like the ‘Age of Sail’ in the 1600s when hundreds of ships head to the sea, we will enter an ‘Age of Space.’ But if we want to carry out large-scale exploration of the extraterrestrial world, we will need to think of ways to reduce payload, meaning relying on as little supplies from Earth as possible and using extraterrestrial resources instead.”
This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China, the Major Research Plan of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, the Program for Guangdong Introducing Innovative and Entrepreneurial Teams, the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province. the open fund of Wuhan National Laboratory for Optoelectronics, the Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at the Microscale, the Civil Aerospace Technology Research Project: Extraterrestrial In-situ water Extraction and Photochemical Synthesis of Hydrogen and Oxygen, and Foshan Xianhu Laboratory of the Advanced Energy Science and Technology Guangdong Laboratory.
Joule, Yao, Wang, Zhu, and Tu et al. “Extraterrestrial Photosynthesis by Chang’E-5 Lunar Soil.” https://www.cell.com/joule/fulltext/S2542-4351(22)00178-7
Joule (@Joule_CP), published monthly by Cell Press, is a new home for outstanding and insightful research, analysis, and ideas addressing the need for more sustainable energy. A sister journal to Cell, Joule spans all scales of energy research, from fundamental laboratory research into energy conversion and storage to impactful analysis at the global level. Visit http://www.cell.com/joule. To receive Cell Press media alerts, contact email@example.com.
METHOD OF RESEARCH
SUBJECT OF RESEARCH
Extraterrestrial photosynthesis by Chang’E-5 lunar soil
ARTICLE PUBLICATION DATE
As to “catalytic efficiency of lunar soil is less than catalysts available on Earth ” there are more “including iron-rich and titanium-rich substances” in e.g. Michigan that can be turned into zeolite and other substances for catalytic conversion to fuels. You still need to develop those natural resources into useful products via carbon-intensive materials and processes, without near as much carbon-stored energy to just get there. Thanks for playing, but this is not a net-zero technology, even though just about as NIMBY as you can hope to achieve.
Who gives a rat’s arse about net-zero?
I thought that it was the publication Joule’s main reason for existence. Perhaps that isn’t so.
WTF does this post have to do with net-zero … other than absolutely nothing?
The source news article in Joule ‘https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2542435122001787′ cites this technology as a means to achieve a “zero-energy consumption” , nearly the same claim made for terrestrial net zero confidence tricks. In the Joule journal (as in the Elsevier family of publications), some such claim for a characterization of a new green technology, with a heafty payment, must be made in order to qualify for publication.
The summary above doesn’t include the zero energy statement, but hints at it in “strategy uses no external energy but sunlight to produce a variety of desirable products” and in “our strategy provides a scenario for a sustainable and affordable extraterrestrial living environment”. As above, the Joule the “short communication abstract” was also tagged/titled as claiming to be an extraterrestrial artificial photosynthesis.
As described, the strategy requires more energy than it stores. It is speculative, impractical, expensive, duplicates multiple other more useful technologies that make use of resources that are much more easily obtained close by, hardly likely to be useful in the long term, and uses a hell of alot of carbon burned in the atmosphere to just get to the point it could be used or even researched further.
So just like net zero. But you are correct in that I should have much more clearly written “zero energy” and cited the original article to avoid comments from the rude and ignorant.
It also has little to do with the CCP researchers’ purpose of analysis of chemical components of lunar samples, results that are essentially duplicates of NASA reported composition from the Apollo missions, a somewhat woke distraction from the purpose of the research. I don’t know whether to be worried or happy that the CCP space program is in fact a lot like modern NASA.
So I can cite your comment as well as the one I responded to as evidence that wacko right wing nuts draw the most ridiculous conclusions from irrelevant scientific studies … but not on the basis of the study we’re talking about.
Did China claim these resources for itself yet?
Should they be asking the USA for permission to do things on the moon?
There is no agreed treaty signed by any of the nations engaged in lunar travel as to how lunar resources are to be used or shared. The so-called “Moon Treaty” has only been signed by non-space travelers.
In other words, anybody can claim what they want, but to defend their claims would be useless unless they’re prepared to go to war with other space traveling nations.
But if all the space-travelling nations are making claims, then conflict would only be between nations with conflicting claims. It is unlikely that any nation would spend significant resources on space travel in order to forcibly prevent all claims by anyone. Any nation with such an ideological position would probably use diplomacy, not war. A treaty forbidding exploitation, outside of the Earth, will be ignored by non-signatories the same way most western countries ignored the 1694 Treaty of Tordesillas; which divided most of the non-Christian world between Spain and Portugal.
At this point, China is the only country willing to spend the many trillions of yuan needed to make this happen. And, of course, once they put people on the moon, the Communists will claim that the moon “was always Chinese” and belongs to them. They will cite ancient texts about the moon as proof that it’s true and deny that anyone else has any right to the moon.
I wish I was being sarcastic.
You are concerned about this because you will live for hundreds of years.
No, I just loathe Communists. They are all liars, cheats, thieves and murderers.
That’s humanity, not just communists.
You do Humanity an injustice by lumping us all together as one amorphous group of beings with no morals or decency!!! We are NOT all the same, & not all of us are politicians!!!
China and Russia are not communist, both countries are closer to fascism.
There are no communist countries today .. there are a small handful who falsely call themselves communist, but they’re all very capitalistic, but fascist (which means total government control … all communists are fascists, but not all fascists are communist).
I guess you agree with Interested Observer, who is quite happy to lump all communists together as liars, cheats, thieves and murderers with no morals or decency. Not all communists are politicians.
I was trying to make the point that communists and non-communists can be bad people.
Open your eyes and look at what has happened over the last few years.
Yes, “ communists and non-communists can be bad people” but, only non-communists can be good people. Open your eyes and look at what has happened over the last century – Communists are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions of people, many more than the Nazis. They’ve also sent more people to concentration camps/gulags/re-education camps than the Nazis did and China is still doing it.The only morality of Communism is the acquisition, retention and use of power; they’ll kill as many people as they need to achieve that end because, that end always justifies whatever means are required to get it.
“Not all communists are politicians.” No, some are concentration camp guards, executioners, doctors and nurses willing to perform forced abortions and forced organ donations (among many other vile procedures), and sundry other jack-booted thugs necessary to prop up an evil regime. Free people don’t choose Communism; they always have it shoved down their throats at gun-point. That’s all that need be said about the “decency” of Communists.
I have zero love for communism, governments, bureaucracies, religions and the passionate adherents thereof.
During the cold war America considered exploding an atomic bomb on the moon to prove they were more powerful than the communists.
Yeah, they were going to set it off on the far-side of the Moon to prevent the radiation from getting back to Earth—that is, until someone pointed out . . .
that’s what you call “aprocryphal”, or in simpler terms, “bullshit”.
Read and weep.
No weeping … but you should weep at being exposed as someone who relies upon Wikipedia for the truth of anything
Any type of government would work just fine, as long as humans were not in charge of it. > ; }
What communists? China? Ha … they ditched communism 43 years ago. They’re fascist dictators who love capitalism.
“Elon Musk says SpaceX can put humans back on the Moon in just three years.”
I wouldn’t put it past him.
It is my understanding that all of the space technology nations are working towards mining Moon soil primarily to extract Helium-3, processing and converting into liquid gas using the extremes of heat and cold there, and that a space shuttle load value on Earth to fuel power stations for electricity generation would be profitable?
You probably need to survive on the moon before you start building factories/plants for other things.
Based on what I’ve read, it’s not meant to be shipped back to Earth. The idea is to use it in space, where it would be cheaper than having it lifted into orbit from Earth. As for profitability, it would have a long lead-in time, requiring long periods of operation before seeing any ROI.
Naturally, only governments are considering these ideas, given that they don’t care about the bottom line and can always
stealtax more to cover the cost of unprofitable ideas, same as they always do.
Governments are not the only people considering these ideas. Capitalists see that there are quadrillions of $$ worth of resources off-planet, and are already coming up with ways to make extracting those resources profitable.
Please, name one resource that’s more economical to mine on the Moon than on Earth.
Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse? Shouldn’t fusion energy be developed and perfected before shuttling off to the moon to mine fuel for fusion reactors?
And what possible use do humans currently have for helium-3?
What, you believe controlled fusion power plants are within 100 years of being developed? If so, you haven’t been tracking developments in this area over the last 50 years.
But no Helium-3, then move from mining to some supposed silly dumb Moon farming, init!
He3 is fusion fuel for second generation fusion reactors – and we’re not even at the alpha stage (a working reactor at the lab stage producing more power than it consumes)
Beta would be a proof of concept plant, maybe cost a lot to build, debug, and maintain, but basically it works and produces a good amount of electricity.
And so on with the ‘release candidate’, and the first gen, tritium and deuterium burning units.
He3 requires a lot more heat and pressure to work than what the scientists are playing with now.
You know what, make that 4th or 5th generation fusion reactor that will need he3.
Most useful on the moon might be ice at the poles in deep crayer shadow – electrolyze it into oxygen and hydrogen.
Next up the silicon and aluminum/aluminium needed to make huge solar power satellites.
Works out much cheaper and environmentally friendly mining and building the solar panels out there, and parking them in geosync orbit to get 24/365 full, unfiltered sunlight.
Batteries not included or needed.
Not true …the Europeans proved more energy released than input a couple years ago
NASA has a leaky souped up SLS and the FAA won’t give Starship the OK to launch…
What happened to the Beryllium core?
Good question. Maybe they used most of it in Webb?
Nasa says… the core is composed of Aluminum 2219
Didn’t you know . . . that beryllium core was needed for Tesla’s red Roadster that was put into orbit around the Sun and is being used, even, today to provide GNC and propulsion so that Starman can drive it in space. It is an electric vehicle, after all.
“Well done children, some very inventive science you’ve done there” says teacher.
“Oh look, its now morning-break playtime, hurry outside and get some fresh air. Be careful in case the climate suddenly changes though”
“And when you come back in we can all start doing some raednig wirting and rithmatic – won’t that be exciting?
Are these the same “scientists” who keep claiming their bio-warfare engineered virus came from a bat in a “wet market”?
COVID came from Italy. And no, it was never bio engineered, despite rightwingnut fantasies to the contrary.
And there you are with that lie, yet again, liar.
And there I am with the truth again. Italy identified the first COVID cases in September 2019 … and a crap load of Italians carried it with them to China a month later at an international military games in China, a month before the first Chinese cases were identified.
Sheesh! The Chinese admitted they produced it. They put infected people onto planes going to many other countries to spread the virus.
Whether or not they actually produced the virus is still being investigated(sort of vapidly).
Liar … what kind of bullshit are you feeding on? The first Chinese cases came two months after the first Italian cases were identified.
Yes, you are a liar, we get it.
deluded liar & shill
Liar and shill .., I cited facts not bullshit
You spew lies, lie spewing liar.
Chinese whispers ……
Cornering the rare moon mineral market.
Please get back to me when lunar soil is demonstrated to have more than simply “the potential” to generate oxygen and fuel.
So, we’ve come down to peer-reviewing future possibilities, is it?
While the term “soil” is in common use for the fine surface material on the moon, the material in question in this article should be referred to as regolith and not soil. There is no organic fraction in lunar “soil”.
“After analyzing the lunar soil brought back by China’s Chang’e 5 spacecraft, their team found the sample contains compounds—including iron-rich and titanium-rich substances..”
No Helium-3 rich soil? Nope, nada??
Moon is cheating!
2 Unlimited – No Limit (1993)
Okay but don’t make it a tax credit line.
If it will sustain a lawn I will pay any price.