NASA partners with Blue Origin to build solar cells out of lunar soil

Can lunar soil make solar cells? NASA awarded Blue Origin a $35 million Tipping Point contract to produce solar energy through Blue Origin’s Blue Alchemist technology for the use of the moon on the ground Battery.

NASA’s 2029 moon landing mission Artemis 5 (Artemis 5) signed a contract with Blue Origin, founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, in May of this year. Blue Origin is responsible for manufacturing the lander, and the astronauts will stay later . But if you want to carry out long-term missions on the moon, the biggest bottleneck is the staggering cost of “express” equipment and materials from the earth. Therefore, NASA and other space agencies believe that the best way to overcome the challenge is to “use locally” as much as possible.

The blue alchemy that Blue Origin has been developing since 2021 may come in handy. By developing a complete process, it will make good use of the lunar regolith covering the surface of the moon to produce complete solar cells or other product.

Of course, lunar soil cannot be freely obtained on the earth. Therefore, at this stage, Blue Alchemy first simulates the particle size and elements of the raw material of the lunar regolith, and then melts the material at 1,600 °C, and melts iron, aluminum, and silicon by molten electrolysis. And other materials are decomposed, and the elements and oxygen are separated by electric current, and finally silicon with a purity of more than 99.999% is produced, which can be applied in solar cell manufacturing technology.

The above-mentioned processes can be realized in the lunar environment and do not require toxic or explosive processes. Blue Origin believes that, in addition to zero emissions, the system will be more environmentally friendly than the solar process on Earth.

Pat Remias, Blue Origin’s vice president of development capabilities, said that one of our missions is to use the abundant resources in space to benefit the earth. We are encouraged and honored to receive NASA investment to advance innovative programs. First of all, we must let humans set foot on the moon again, and then start living “on land”.

The goal of the contract is to achieve an autonomous demonstration of Blue Alchemist by 2026.


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