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Author Topic:   Blue Origin Blue Alchemist lunar solar cells
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 49953
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-14-2023 12:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Blue Origin release
Blue Alchemist Technology Powers our Lunar Future

Since 2021, Blue Origin has been making solar cells and transmission wire from regolith simulants.

To make long-term presence on the Moon viable, we need abundant electrical power. We can make power systems on the Moon directly from materials that exist everywhere on the surface, without special substances brought from Earth. We have pioneered the technology and demonstrated all the steps. Our approach, Blue Alchemist, can scale indefinitely, eliminating power as a constraint anywhere on the Moon.

Above: Blue Origin manufactured this working solar cell prototype from lunar regolith simulants.

We start by making regolith simulants that are chemically and mineralogically equivalent to lunar regolith, accounting for representative lunar variability in grain size and bulk chemistry. This ensures our starting material is as realistic as possible, and not just a mixture of lunar-relevant oxides. We have developed and qualified an efficient, scalable, and contactless process for melting and moving molten regolith that is robust to natural variations in regolith properties on the Moon.

Using regolith simulants, our reactor produces iron, silicon, and aluminum through molten regolith electrolysis, in which an electrical current separates those elements from the oxygen to which they are bound. Oxygen for propulsion and life support is a byproduct.

Our process purifies silicon to more than 99.999%. This level of purity is required to make efficient solar cells. While typical silicon purification methods on Earth use large amounts of toxic and explosive chemicals, our process uses just sunlight and the silicon from our reactor.

For protection from the harsh lunar environment, solar cells need cover glass; without it, they would only last for days. Our technique uses only molten regolith electrolysis byproducts to make cover glass that enables lunar lifetimes exceeding a decade.

Because our technology manufactures solar cells with zero carbon emissions, no water, and no toxic ingredients or other chemicals, it has exciting potential to directly benefit the Earth.

Above: Once demonstrated and implemented on the Moon, Blue Alchemist will put unlimited solar power wherever we need it.

We assembled, in one laboratory, the people and facilities needed to transform regolith into solar cells and wires:

  • People: Our team encompasses all disciplines needed to solve this unprecedented technical challenge: geologists, geochemists, electrochemists, metallurgists, materials and photovoltaic scientists, fluid dynamicists, mechanical and electrical engineers, roboticists, and instrument, space flight, and systems engineers.

  • Facilities: Our laboratory is purpose-equipped for every step of the end-to-end process of transforming regolith into solar cells and aluminum wire, including quality and longevity testing.
Although our vision is technically ambitious, our technology is real now. Blue Origin's goal of producing solar power using only lunar resources is aligned with NASA's highest priority Moon-to-Mars infrastructure development objective.

Learning to live off the land – on the Moon and on Mars – will require extensive collaboration across the ISRU community. We are ready.

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