The Lunar Soil Particle Separator (LSPS) beneficiates soil prior to in situ resource utilization (ISRU). It can improve ISRU oxygen yield by boosting the concentration of ilmenite, or other iron-oxide-bearing materials found in lunar soils, which can substantially reduce hydrogen reduction reactor size, as well as drastically decreasing the power input required for soil heating. LSPS particle size separations can be performed to “de-dust” regolith, and to improve ISRU reactor flow dynamics. LSPS mineral separations can be used to alter the sintering characteristics of lunar soil, and can also be used to separate and concentrate lunar materials useful for manufacture of structural materials, glass, and chemicals.
An initial centrifugal particle size separation is integrated by the LSPS and is followed by magnetic, gravity, and/or electrostatic separations. LSPS hardware for each unit operation exhibits favorable properties of low mass and low power requirements. A single feeder delivers soil to the system where sorted particles cascade by gravity to the next unit operation, or to product collection bins. The centrifugal particle separator avoids the use of heavy, eccentric drives that require high power input, and does not require the use of screens that can plug with near-size particles. The magnetic separator uses high-strength, permanent magnets and requires power only to rotate the separation drum. The electrostatic separator uses a high-voltage power module that generates an electrostatic field with very low power consumption. Small vibrators and smooth surfaces placed at appropriate angles are used to avoid particle hang-up.
This system is amenable to testing and operation in vacuum, and the operating parameters and hardware configurations can also be adjusted for testing and evaluation in reduced gravity.
This work was done by Mark Berggren of Pioneer Astronautics for Glenn Research Center. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Mechanics/Machinery category.
Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steve Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. Refer to LEW-18515-1.