Researchers uncover plan to turn Martian air, dust and sunlight into iron

A team of researchers led by Professor Akbar Ramdani of Swinburne University of Technology has published the first-of-its-kind detailed study of mining on another planet.

The team is focused on mining on the surface of Mars. The researchers are working on developing a process that will use processed air, dust and sunlight on Mars to produce metallic iron. Concentrated solar energy is used as a source of heat and carbon, which is produced by cooling carbon dioxide, a by-product of oxygen production in the Martian atmosphere.

This demonstration of oxygen production took place on Mars aboard the Perseverance rover as part of NASA’s MOXIE (Martian Oxygen Resource Exploitation Experiment). in situ).

The Swinburne mining operation is planned to be combined with a future oxygen plant (much larger than MOXIE) to co-produce oxygen and iron alloys that can be used to create metals. This could then be used to advance the human mission and development on Mars.

Why do we need minerals on other planets?

Launching technology into space is expensive, time-consuming and harmful to the environment. Extraction of resources from other planets allows more efficient, cheap and sustainable development in space.

This allows for human exploration and the scaling up of technologies such as satellites that help collect data and solve problems on Earth.

The team is currently working with CSIRO Minerals, one of the world’s largest mineral research and development groups, and the CSIRO Space Technology Future Science Platform to take their research to the next stage.

“We would like to develop a mining process on Mars that actually uses resources in situ — without bringing in reagents from Earth — to support more human missions and exploration on Mars,” says Professor Ramdani. “And if you want to build something, big on Mars without having to pay to launch everything from Earth (large satellites, Martian colonies, gas stations, etc.), that can be a very valuable process.”

“Australia is committed to supporting NASA’s return to the Moon and mission to Mars under Project Artemis, and to make this possible, the resources of the Moon and Mars will be required,” said Alan Duffy, professor at the Swinburne Institute of Space Technology and Industry. leverage Swinburne’s experience and industry partnerships in resource extraction and processing to help “make NASA’s vision of astronauts walking on the Red Planet a little easier. This work is a small step in the processing of minerals that can take humanity a giant leap out of the world. “