Squeezing Rocket Fuel From Moon Rocks

Here’s how lunar explorers will mine the regolith to make rocket fuel

1 min read
Illustration of a design for a possible mining operation on the moon.
Illustration: John MacNeill

Illustration of a design for a possible mining operation on the moon. Illustration: John MacNeill

The most valuable natural resource on the moon may be water. In addition to sustaining lunar colonists, it could also be broken down into its constituent elements—hydrogen and oxygen—and used to make rocket propellant.

Although the ancients called the dark areas on the moon maria (Latin for “seas”), it has long been clear that liquid water can’t exist on the lunar surface, where it would swiftly evaporate. Since the 1960s, though, scientists have hypothesized that the moon indeed harbors water, in the form of ice. Because the moon has a very small axial tilt—just 1.5 degrees—the floors of many polar craters remain in perpetual darkness. Water could thus condense and survive in such polar “cold traps,” where it might one day be mined.

Illustration: John MacNeill

Water Water Everywhere: Finding rich deposits of ice and extracting it should be possible but will be technically challenging for lunar settlers.

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Study: Recycled Lithium Batteries as Good as Newly Mined

Cathodes made with novel direct-recycling beat commercial materials

3 min read
iStockphoto

Lithium-ion batteries, with their use of riskily mined metals, tarnish the green image of EVs. Recycling to recover those valuable metals would minimize the social and environmental impact of mining, keep millions of tons of batteries from landfills, and cut the energy use and emissions created from making batteries.

But while the EV battery recycling industry is starting to take off, getting carmakers to use recycled materials remains a hard sell. "In general, people's impression is that recycled material is not as good as virgin material," says Yan Wang, a professor of mechanical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. "Battery companies still hesitate to use recycled material in their batteries."

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New Optical Switch up to 1000x Faster Than Transistors

“Optical accelerator” devices could one day soon turbocharge tailored applications

2 min read

The Hybrid Photonics Labs at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow, where the new optical switch was created.

Skoltech

A new optical switch is, at 1 trillion operations per second, between 100 and 1,000 times faster than today's leading commercial electronic transistors, research that may one day help lead to a new generation of computers based on light instead of electricity, say scientists in Russia and at IBM.

Computers typically represent data as ones and zeroes by switching transistors between one electric state and the other. Optical computers that replace conventional transistors with optical switches could theoretically operate more quickly than regular computers, as photons travel at the speed of light, while electrons, typically, don’t.

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Adhesives for Cryogenic Applications

Cryogenic Temperatures and the Role of Specialty Adhesives

1 min read

What are the challenges facing applications that operate at cryogenic temperatures? What effect do these low temperatures have on efforts to bond, seal, coat or encapsulate? In this paper, learn how specialized adhesives meet the performance requirements necessary to maintain the physical, thermal and electrical properties as temperatures approach absolute zero.

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