The European Space Agency (ESA) has partnered with British metallurgy company Metalysis on a project that could potentially assist in enabling life on our Moon. Much of the oxygen present on the Moon is trapped inside of rock dust, primarily regolith. Metalysis has already been using a process to extract minerals from Earth rocks in their metal production, which happens to have oxygen as a byproduct. They believe a similar process can be used on lunar regolith to extract the oxygen, this time with the minerals as byproduct. The minerals can still be useful, too, as they can be used by 3D printers to build construction material.
In order to make this process ready for use on the Moon, it’s going to need to be less energy-intensive, since there isn’t as much energy available on the Moon as there is on Earth. Metalysis is working in conjunction with the ESA to rework their process with the express purpose of oxygen extraction from lunar regolith in mind. They believe that a more streamlined process with one specific purpose can be more energy efficient. There are also plans to reduce the size of the extraction chamber, which is currently about the size of a washing machine, so that it can be more easily transported to the Moon.