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The sky isn’t the limit for global sieving and filtration specialists Russell Finex
For over 20 years it has been known by scientists that lunar regolith or ‘lunar soil’ contains valuable resources that if mined and processed effectively, could provide a number of important uses on Earth, such as the use of helium-3 for producing energy and the use of silica oxide, which following mineral extraction can provide oxygen for use in life support systems. With all of this potential, interest into the feasibility of mining on the moon has increased. In January 2010, NASA approached the University of Wisconsin – Madison to carry out new research looking into the feasibility of using existing mining technologies used on Earth within lunar gravity.
With one trip to the moon costing an estimated $3 billion, travelling to the moon to carry out the experiments was not an option. This meant that the research team had to tackle three main challenges. Firstly, they needed to simulate lunar gravity which was achieved using a specially adapted aircraft which briefly provides a weightless environment for research purposes. Secondly, they needed to obtain a suitable sample of lunar regolith, which was supplied by Orbitec who were able to produce a lunar regolith simulant. The third challenge was to find a suitable sieve that could size-sort lunar particles both on the ground at the airbase (to provide a control comparison) as well as in lunar gravity.
Due to space limitations the sieve needed to be small and compact as well as simple and easy to clean during flights. For this, the research team contacted Russell Finex following a recommendation from NASA. After careful consideration, a Russell Compact Sieve was chosen due to its straight-through design. This vibrating screen would allow the unit to fit neatly into the purpose built test-rig. With the three main challenges resolved, experiments could commence. The results of the trials provided some promising findings, suggesting that the Russell Compact Sieve could be used successfully within lunar gravity.
Following the success of this research NASA purchased a double deck Russell Compact Sieve. With this machine they aim to continue the research that the University of Wisconsin – Madison started.
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