Over 100 Times More Energy Efficient Moon Mining By Sorting Ice Grains

Micrometeoroid bombardment has already broken most solid material in the upper part of the regolith into fine grains. This includes solid material of all compositions, including the ice, which is as hard as granite at PSR temperatures and is therefore essentially another type of rock. These ice grains are intermixed with all the other minerals, so a simple, ultra-low-energy grain-sorting process can extract the ice without phase change. As another benefit it can extract the 1 wt% free metal known to be in lunar soil, again with very little energy. The ice can then be hauled to the chemical processing unit in solid phase and converted into rocket propellant.

They had originally estimated the 800 kW power needed for thermal extraction can be reduced to less than 100 watts using the new method. The more detailed work has a conservative estimate of over 100 times greater energy efficiency. This affects the entire architecture of the mining operation producing extensive economic benefit.

Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com