An important aspect of lunar mining will be the extraction of volatiles, particularly oxygen, from lunar rocks. Thermodynamic data show that oxygen could readily be recovered by fluorination of abundant lunar anorthite, CaAl2Si2O8. Fluorine is the most reactive element, and the only reagent able to extract 100 percent of the oxygen from any mineral, yet it can safely be stored or reacted in nickel or iron containers. The general fluorination reaction, mineral + 2F2 = mixed fluorides = O2, has been used for more than 30 years at a laboratory scale by stable-isotope geochemists. For anorthite, metallic Al and Si may be recovered from the mixed fluorides by Na-reduction, and CaO via exchange with Na2O; the resulting NaF may be recycled into F2 and Na by electrolysis, using lanthanide-doped CaF2 as the inert anode.
Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century
- Pub Date:
- September 1992
- Calcium Fluorides;
- Lunar Mining;
- Lunar Rocks;
- Lunar and Planetary Exploration