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A new European firm is currently developing technology, a regolith-to-oxygen transformation that is, that will help one to breathe on the moon.

Potentially, according to an SYFY report, addressing one of the major challenges in developing a permanent moon base, the said new company is devising an oxygen-extraction machine for astronauts to be able to breathe freely while they are performing lunar activities.

Space Application Services, which is based in Belgium, is engineering triple experimental reactors, in partnership with the European Space Agency as an element of the latter's upcoming ISRU or in situ resource utilization mission scheduled for 2025.

This technology is ultimately aimed for delivery to the moon, where it could start with the processing of lunar soil called "regolith" in the next four years.

Such reactors, this report specified, will be used in fine-tuning the oxygen-making approach that depends on the FFC Cambridge process, which was initially developed in the late 1990s for titanium's direct extraction from titanium oxide.

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Science Times - Regolith-to-Oxygen Transformation: European Firm Develops Tech to Make Astronauts Breathe on Moon
(Photo: NASA/Eugene A. Cernan on Wikimedia Commons)
On the moon’s isolated surface, this distinct approach will divide lunar regolith, which is composed of almost 45 percent oxygen, and isolate its metal alloys, as well as its pure oxygen.

Regolith-to-Oxygen Transformation

Named after its inventors Derek Fray, George Chen, and Thomas Farthing at Cambridge University, this approach uses electrolysis to isolate the pure metal from the raw ore.

On the moon's isolated surface, this distinct approach will divide lunar regolith, which is composed of almost 45 percent oxygen, and isolate its metal alloys, as well as its pure oxygen.

In relation to lunar regolith, according to NASA, the lunar surface is covered by the lunar regolith, a layer of unconsolidated debris. More so, the regolith's thickness varies from approximately five meters on "mare surface" to roughly 10 meters on highland surfaces.

Moon dirt resulting from this system is then employed as the electrode called cathode, into which an electric current is presented to an electrolytic cell and therefore, deliverance oxygen during the procedure.

Oxygen that's locally sourced will be absolutely essential for plans that involve long-term human activities on any heavenly body, not just the planet's own satellite.

Such metal alloys left after the extraction of oxygen can plausibly be repurposed for the manufacturing of either Martian habitats or moon base elements when attached to 3D printing technology.

Perfecting Another Technique Through Ilmenite's Hydrogen Reduction

As specified in this scientific report, without placing "all their eggs in the FFC Cambridge method basket," SAS is adding to their oxygen-making machines too, by perfecting another technique through the use of ilmenite's hydrogen reduction. Ilmenite, as Minerals.net describes, is identified as an ore rich in titanium that exists in some areas of the moon.

Such a reduction technique is baking regolith in a sealed container partnered with hydrogen gas. In addition, by adding the heat's element, oxygen from the ilmenite is reacting with the hydrogen and generates water vapor to be divided into oxygen and hydrogen.

Aside from being applied for human life-support systems, researchers believe that lunar hydrogen and oxygen manufacturing can be tapped into for fuel-producing innovativeness for future missions into deep space launching into the solar system's far reaches.

Essentially, optimization of what this report describes as "air-from-moondust system" will take place at the new European Space Resources Centre in Luxembourg, which was opened in November last year, a world-class center for business, economic, technical, and scientific technology for space-based resources advancement and refinement.

Related information about lunar regolith is shown on European Space Agency's YouTube video below:

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