Extraterrestrial Resource Processing
Harvesting materials from the moon to 3D print in space and other innovative ways to utilise resources outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
Our moon and Mars offer a bounty of natural resources that can be used as raw materials for supply and manufacturing outside of Earth. Through Extraterrestrial Resource Processing, the Space Technology and Industry Institute seeks to discover techniques to extract and process these substances.
The Extraterrestrial Resource Processing program is led by Professor Geoffrey Brooks, and works closely with CSIRO (Minerals), Space Industries, Lunar Resources and members of Shandong University to investigate utilising resources outside the Earth’s atmosphere to support ongoing space exploration.
Current projects are focused on the processing of lunar and martian minerals to recover water, oxygen, helium 3 (He3) and other valuable metals. We are examining the basic physical-chemical properties of extraterrestrial minerals and exploring how these properties will affect recovery and processing.
Many of the processes used to recover valuable resources from extraterrestrial materials involve heat. Groundbreaking research in this program will investigate how to utilise solar energy in these operations, building on our existing expertise.
A substance known as ‘lunar regolith’ is the focus of several studies in the program – this is the fine powdery material that covers the surface of the moon. We are working to understand the basic sintering characteristics (the process of fusing particles together into a solid mass using pressure and heat, without melting) of lunar regolith to determine whether it could be used in construction by 3D print technologies. Studies include:
- recovery of metals from lunar regolith using solar energy
- recovery of metals from lunar regolith using electrolysis
- heat transfer of solar energy into lunar regolith
- feasibility of He3 recovery from lunar regolith
- sintering of lunar regolith for building materials.
The sustainability of future extraterrestrial human habitation is another important theme in this program. Current projects focus on materials, sustainability and automated lunar dust mitigation. This work brings together researchers from a wide range of backgrounds to address these important challenges. Studies include:
- dust mitigation by use of solar energy
- active dust mitigation for lunar vehicles
- properties/processing of regolith/ice
- evaluation of metal extraction on Mars.
Projects under development
Future projects in this program may include:
- casting of metal under lunar conditions
- materials suitable for the moon on basis of sustainability
- 3D printing of regolith structures.
Australian team tackles the costs of ‘space-shipping’ to the moon
Professor Geoff Brooks discusses how engineering and science are blended to overcome the challenges of transportation and building on the moon.
Explore our other research programs
Contact the Space Technology and Industry Institute
If your organisation would like to collaborate with us to solve a complex problem, or you simply want to contact our team, get in touch by calling +61 3 9214 5177 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.