This work seeks to develop a theoretical framework for using concentrated solar irradiation to drive in-situ resource utilization processes, which are required for fiscally feasible lunar missions. The thermal extraction of volatiles, primarily H2O, and thermochemical processing of lunar regolith to extract O2 are explored in this work.
Models are presented explore equilibrium compositions as a function of temperature at lunar pressure, specifically for O2, H2O, and metals and metalloids. Predictions for potentially harmful toxins are also presented, due to the presence of volatiles other than water in lunar permanently shadowed regions, in order to examine if dangerous amounts of toxins will be released during extraction of H2O from the lunar regolith. A simplified model of the solar resources available on the Moon is also presented, which, though simplified, can provide insight into where in-situ resource utilization facilities should be placed to utilize the solar resources most effectively. Both these models are used to suggest specific concentrating infrastructure for use for specific.
The result of some preliminary proof-of concept experiments are also presented. Thermodynamic analysis experiments with lunar regolith simulants suggests that the thermal extraction of H2O is, in fact, possible. Composition and structure of regolith simulants before and after thermodynamic analysis, as determined by x-ray diffraction, are presented. The desorption energies of lunar regolith simulants is presented, determined by leading edge analysis of temperature programmed desorption.