Friday, August 6, 2021

News: Metalysis make giant leap toward extracting oxygen from moonrock


Scientists at Rotherham-based tech firm, Metalysis, are over the moon after making ground-breaking developments that could shape the future of space exploration.

The Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) 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 commercialising the technology to produce titanium, tantalum, and related high value alloys.

Rothbiz reported last year that innovative technology pioneered by Metalysis is being backed by the European Space Agency (ESA) in their efforts to "mine space" and colonise the Moon.

The firm has now successfully extracted oxygen from replicated moonrock (lunar regolith) which predominantly contains aluminium, silicon, and oxygen, as part of the research programme. The metal powder by-product collected during the process is also generating huge interest.

The project is providing an assessment to prepare and de-risk technology developments, focussed towards oxygen production for propellants and life support consumables. The ability to extract oxygen on the moon is vital for future exploration and habitation, being essential for sustainable long duration activities in space. In-Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) will significantly reduce the payload mass that would be needed to be launched from earth. On a space journey to Mars for example, the extraction of oxygen could see a refuelling station on the Moon.

The research, which was conducted by Metalysis using patented processes, has produced a multi- kilogram batch of metal powder from the lunar regolith, opening possibilities to make products to scale, rather than just acquiring samples. This is the first time the metal powder by-product has been produced in these quantities, sparking much interest from customers, and other interested parties, to carry out their own testing and further research. Since the material is in powder form, it is ideal to be used in techniques such as Additive Manufacturing (AM), both for space infrastructure development and in-situ equipment manufacturing.

Learning surrounding the extracted metal powders is also applicable to the on-earth manufacture of products, which could be used in a range of fast-growing applications including medical prosthesis, vehicle, and aviation lightweighting, electronics, magnetic materials, as well as space exploration.

Metalysis, which has both research and production facilities based in Rotherham, has doubled in size in recent months and already has a global reach. The company, which was born over 15 years ago, has gone from strength to strength in recent years, driving forward initiatives such as this research programme, funded by themselves, as well as other privately and publicly sponsored projects looking to advance the potential of metal powders both on earth and in space.

Ian Mellor, managing director at Metalysis, said: "We are excited to be at the forefront of this In-Situ Resource Utilisation activity, demonstrating multiple kilogram batches of metal alloy powder can be produced from moon rock, using the Metalysis technology. This enables new design opportunities in the construction of lunar habitats, which until now could only be envisaged conceptionally.”

Metalysis is funded by the UK Space Agency through the European Space Agency.

Sue Horne, Head of Space Exploration at the UK Space Agency, said: “The UK is playing a leading role in space exploration, including the Rosalind Franklin rover which launches next year to search for signs of life on Mars.

“Finding ways to create the things we need to support life - food, water and breathable air – will be essential for longer-term crewed missions into deep space. This exciting research from Metalysis brings us a step closer to making that possible.”

Metalysis website

Images: Metalysis


Anonymous,  August 6, 2021 at 4:26 PM  

Yet they shafted lots of Companies including mine when they went into Administration. They sacked a lot of local workers, were millions in debt and cost small local Companies hundreds of thousands of pounds yet are given publicity.

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