Development of a parametric sizing model for Molten Salt Electrolysis reactors to coproduce oxygen and metals on the Moon
- Lehrstuhl für Raumfahrttechnik
In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) aims to process and utilize local extraterrestrial resources to reduce the amount of material that would otherwise be required from Earth. Oxygen and metal alloys produced locally could help to ensure a sustainable long-term human presence on the lunar surface. To this end, the research community is developing multiple methods to chemically reduce lunar regolith.
One of these methods is Molten Salt Electrolysis (MSE), in particular the FFC (Fray, Farthing, and Chen)-Cambridge process, which is based on the electrochemical reduction of a solid regolith cathode in a bath of molten salt chlorides at temperatures close to 1200 K. The oxygen anions (O2-) move towards an inert anode, where they are oxidized to gaseous O2. The cathode is gradually depleted of oxygen and ends up comprising heterogeneous metal alloys.
Although the FFC-Cambridge process has been successfully scaled up for terrestrial applications, and small-scale laboratory experiments have been carried out with regolith simulants, a comprehensive study of the feasibility of this process for large-scale oxygen and metal production under the harsh lunar environment is still missing in the literature.
The goal of this thesis is to develop an MSE sizing model that parametrically generates a reactor design (dimensions as well as mass and power budgets) and performance estimates for a given set of model inputs. This model should be used to 1) guide MSE reactor design development and 2) quantitatively compare it to other ISRU techniques to asses its feasibility for large-scale oxygen and metal production.
- research and summarize previous work performed in the field of electrochemical reactor modeling
- identify model parameters that significantly affect the performance of the system
- develop an analytical MSE sizing model supported by multiphysics simulations for higher degree of fidelity
- carry out sensitivity analyses on the model inputs and discuss results
- (optional) develop a ISRU system modeling framework for future system expansion and optimization
The thesis would be carried out at the Professorship of Lunar and Planetary Exploration Technologies.
- basic knowledge and interest in space resources and the challenges to their utilization
- experience with multidisciplinary system modeling and design
- programming skills (Matlab, Python)
- experience with computational multiphysics simulation software (COMSOL, Ansys)
- (ideally) knowledge in the field of electrochemistry
- Möglicher Beginn
M.Sc. Francisco Javier Guerrero Gonzalez
Tel.: +49 (89) 289 - 16016