Tuesday, October 17, 2017

News: Metalysis and manufacturing on the Moon

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Innovative technology pioneered in Rotherham by Metalysis has been recognised by the European Space Agency (ESA) for the important role it could play in colonising the Moon.

The Manvers company holds the worldwide exploitation rights to the FCC Cambridge process which sees specialist powder metals created in a simple, cost effective process with significant environmental benefits. It is in the process of commercialising the technology to produce titanium, tantalum, and related high value alloys. These are used increasingly by major worldwide industries such as aerospace, marine, medical, chemical, automotive and electronics.

The agency, which brings together the resources of 22 member states, recently launched a challenge focusing on in-situ resource utilisation (ISRU) which concerns the exploitation of the lunar or asteroid resources enabling the in-situ supply of materials needed for building habitats and potentially empowering human beings to perform activities in space.

Metalysis is involved in a research and development (R&D) project as scientists have found a number of "raw materials" on the Moon which have the potential to be mined and converted into usable materials using the firm's electrochemical process. Lunar ilmenite could be transformed into titanium-iron alloys, lunar anorthite could be reduced to aluminium-silicon alloys, and lunar olivine could be transformed into magnesium-silicon alloys.

The powder alloys, created at much less the cost of current processes, are perfect for 3D printing, opening up the possibility of manufacturing building blocks and moving parts for machines, in-situ, on the Moon, out of moon rocks.

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Backed by investors and grants, the Cambridge University spin out secured £20m of investment last year and has opened a new Materials Discovery Centre on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham where it carries out bespoke, commercial R&D projects to produce exotic metal powders for high performance alloys in the aerospace and automotive industries.

In Manvers the company is completing its "Generation 4" technological expansion, taking production capability to new levels. Following next year is "Generation 5" - manufacturing options for thousands of tonnes per annum of high value metal alloy powders.

At a public ceremony at the end of the recent Global Space Economic Workshop in Paris, Eric Morel de Westgaver, Director for Industry, Procurement and Legal Affairs, at the ESA presented Dr. Dion Vaughan with a certificate naming Metalysis as first ESA "Grand Challenger."

Dr. Dion Vaughan, CEO of Metalysis, said: "An R&D project which contemplates taking our technology and applying it to 3D printing systems in terraforming environments is an ambitious undertaking, enabled by our next phase of scale-up in the UK.

"ESA's focus on developing transferable technologies, with industries offering economic benefits on earth and in space, is an excellent fit for Metalysis as we progress to our Generation 5 project which will showcase multiple modular electrochemical units, adjustable within a Factory of the Future manufacturing scenario."

Metalysis website

Images: Metalysis


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