Aluminothermic Reduction-Molten Salt Electrolysis Using Inert Anode for Oxygen and Al-Base Alloy Extraction from Lunar Soil Simulant
Aluminothermic reduction-electrolysis using an inert anode process is proposed to extract oxygen and metals from Minnesota Lunar Simulant-1 (MLS-1). Effective aluminothermic reduction between dissolved MLS-1 and dissolved metal aluminum was achieved in cryolite salt media. The product phases obtained by aluminothermic reduction at 980°C for 4 h were Al, Si, and Al5FeSi, while the chemical components were 79.71 mass% aluminum, 12.03 mass% silicon, 5.91 mass% iron, and 2.35 mass% titanium. The cryolite salt containing Al2O3 was subsequently electrolyzed with Fe0.58-Ni0.42 inert anode at 960°C for 4 h. Oxygen was evolved at the anode with an anodic current efficiency of 78.28%. The results demonstrate that this two-step process is remarkably feasible for the extraterrestrial extraction of oxygen and metals. This process will help expand the existing in situ resource utilization methods.