Building a lunar settlement has been the ultimate goal of lunar exploitation since man’s first step on the moon. However, limited supplies of fuel and oxygen restrict human survival on the Moon.

By combining photovoltaics and electrocatalysis, the artificial production of hydrocarbon fuels together with oxygen, using carbon dioxide and water as raw materials, has been shown to be feasible on Earth and is known as a potential strategy that can be imitated in extraterrestrial sites.

With the rapid progress of lunar exploration, researchers have discovered that the lunar surface has considerable reserves of carbon dioxide and water, which further confirms the feasibility of the idea.

In this context, the joint research team of the University of Science and Technology of China, Nanjing University and the Chinese Academy of Space Technology discovered that the lunar soil brought by the Chang’e 5 mission can be used as a catalyst to boost the electrocatalytic conversion of CO2 to produce fuel and oxygen.

Building a settlement, the ultimate goal of lunar mining

This efficient extraterrestrial fuel and oxygen production system is expected to facilitate the development of human civilization towards extraterrestrial settlements. This achievement is reported by the magazine National Science Review.

“In situ utilization of lunar soil resources to achieve extraterrestrial fuel and oxygen production is vital to manned lunar exploration missions. Considering that there are limited human resources in extraterrestrial sites, we proposed to use the robotic system to realize the entire configuration of the CO2 electrocatalytic conversion system,” says Yujie Xiong, one of the lead authors of this study.

The lunar soil used in this research was provided by the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the first lunar soil brought to Earth since the Soviet Union’s LUNA 24 mission in 1976.

How did scientists use the regolith on the Moon?

The researchers used lunar soil as a catalyst and loaded copper directly onto the lunar regolith.

Given the limited manpower at extraterrestrial sites, operating such electrocatalytic CO2 conversion using a robotic system is highly desirable.

In this regard, the research team tried to simplify the configuration of the CO2 electrocatalytic conversion system to meet the operational requirements of the robotic system. Thus, the developed robotic system could operate the entire process, from the preparation of the catalyst to the configuration of the electrocatalytic system, he writes EurekAlert.

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