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Extraction Methods for Frozen Lunar Water Ice?

  1. Mar 7, 2010 #1
    You want to think about technology you can patent? Come up with a way to extract frozen water ice in the shadowed craters on the Moon, which are at temperatures approaching absolute zero. He who controls the lunar water, controls the future of human colonization on the Moon.

    Given that this frozen water could very well be the most precious commodity on the entire lunar surface, then people would pay an arm and a leg for a convenient way to extract and harvest it.

    How do you grab ice that may be frozen at some ridiculously low temperature, in an area also at the same low temperature?

    Microwave cutting? Simple hot knife?
    How to grab any pieces you've chopped free?
    What kind of apparatus would you use?

    There's no way to suction anything in a hard vacuum. Is it better to pound on the ice and create ice chips, to then scoop them up like gravel? Would a jackhammer suffice?

    What is the best way to grab this stuff and handle it, especially if you're doing it at the bottom of a deep cavity?

    Should there be an X-Prize competition for this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 7, 2010 #2
    Haha. That could be interesting. Simply because if you hot-knife a block, it will almost instantly re-freeze... requiring you to somehow remove the melted water immediately.
  4. Mar 8, 2010 #3
    On the other hand, maybe extracting the traces of adsorbed water from the regolith may be easier than going down into some deep shadowed crater to extract the ice.

    But what I don't understand is how you evaporate volatiles in their vapor phase and avoid losing them to the hard lunar vacuum. To me, that requires heating your solids in a sealed chamber, which imposes a batch process over a continuous one.

    Is there some way to use electrical or magnetic fields to corral the water vapor? Is there some regenerative catalytic process that could be used? What's the cheapest, most efficient way to do this to gather large amounts of water?
  5. Mar 8, 2010 #4
    Oh, another thought - perhaps you could leverage the day-night cycles on the Moon, since the transition between night and day would see the water approaching its sublimation/frost point, so that you'd then be able to harvest more easily while expending less energy.
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