Gypsum and other evaporites as a potential source for water extraction on Mars: Experimental update

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics; Department of Chemical Engineering


Several potential water sources have been identified on Mars below 50 degree latitude including buried glacial ice and hydrated minerals such as smectite clays and gypsum. Of the minerals, gypsum has been identified as the most efficient source of water due to the low water release temperature at 150 C and the high water content; 20% water by mass. This paper will give an update on the project progress of the Early Stage Innovation grant with the objective to demonstrate an innovative process for extraction of water from hard extraterrestrial soils and gypsum in particular. The process involves ‘dissaggregating’ material using a water jet to form a slurry, and pumping the slurry to a processing system for separation and water extraction. This innovative process eliminates the hardest problem in mining: comminution, which involves heavy equipment, significant energies, forces, and tooling impractical for sustained extraterrestrial ISRU. The process combines the steps of excavation and extraction within a simple, self-contained system of minimal mechanical complexity; resulting in a durable system with low mass and low energy requirements. The process takes advantage of mineralogy with benign processing temperatures that are generally less than 200 °C and it is adaptable to a wide range of geomechanical properties, deposit sources and contaminants. This paper will report on the experimental studies of water-gypsum disaggregation, slurry transportation, water-particle separation and sealing. This promising approach could potentially be used for other hydrated minerals and even ice-cemented soils in other locations such as the Moon.

Publisher's Statement

© 2018, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA. All rights reserved. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2018-5292

Publication Title

2018 AIAA SPACE and Astronautics Forum and Exposition