Blue Origin has announced that it has developed a method for producing solar cells and transmission wire using only lunar regolith. The aerospace company, owned by tycoon Jeff Bezos, has been working on building solar panels in situ.
The idea of manufacturing anything off Earth could become a very complex challenge, unless there is a way to circumvent the need to move much of the necessary inputs on a spacecraft more than 300,000 kilometers away. Blue Origin proposes to use the Moon’s mineral resources to facilitate the manufacturing process.
This is a stellar achievement by Blue Origin that deserves more recognition.Eric Berger, Senior Space Editor at Ars Technica
A research team from the company has succeeded in manufacturing photovoltaic cells and electrical cables from a material that is chemically and mineralogically very similar to lunar regolith. This proposal, which is part of the Blue Alchemist program, has as its backbone a process known as “molten regolith electrolysis”.
As the company explains, the method makes it possible to separate the elements from oxygen, and thus safely produce iron, silicon and aluminum. “Our reactor geometry, metal extraction approach and material selection will enable sustained lunar operations,” Blue Origin assures in a blog post.
These long-lived cells resist degradation caused by radiation on the Moon.Blue Origin
The process is capable of producing silicon with a purity of 99.99%, a very important level for making efficient electricity-generating photovoltaic cells. The cells, they claim, will be able to resist degradation caused by lunar radiation.
Blue Origin has decided to go a step further in its ambitious proposal. It claims that because the method produces no greenhouse gas emissions and requires no water or toxic elements, it could be of great benefit to Earth’s inhabitants.