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Chinese study: Moon soil can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen

Chinese study: Moon soil can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen

A recent study has found that lunar soil can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, raising the possibility that it could be used to support human life in space.

The report, published in the scientific journal Joule, found that lunar soil contains active compounds that can be used, along with sunlight and carbon dioxide, to produce water, oxygen and fuel to support life on the lunar base, and enable further space exploration, according to The Independent.

“Our strategy provides a scenario for a sustainable and affordable extraterrestrial living environment,” said Yingfang Yao, a materials scientist from Nanjing University in China and lead author of the report.

“If we want to conduct large-scale exploration of the extraterrestrial world, we will need to think of ways to reduce the payload, and that means relying on as little supplies from Earth as possible, and using extraterrestrial resources instead,” he explained.
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Previously, scientists proposed strategies for extraterrestrial survival, but most of them require energy sources from Earth. For example, although NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars carried an instrument that could use carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere to produce oxygen, the rover was powered by a nuclear battery.

But this time, Dr. Yao and his colleagues hope to take advantage of two of the moon’s two most important resources: the abundance of solar radiation and soil, and reduce what needs to be carried into space.

Scientists analyzed lunar soil, which was brought back by the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e-5, and found that it contains materials rich in iron and titanium. Now, they hope to design an “extraterrestrial photosynthesis” system that will use lunar soil to electrolyze water.

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The carbon dioxide exhaled by the astronauts will also be collected and combined with hydrogen from the electrolysis of the water. This process will produce hydrocarbons such as methane that can be used as fuel, according to scientists, helping to cost-effectively sustain human life on the moon.

The team hopes to test the system in space with future lunar flights by China.