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NRI PhD student wins first prize in space science competition

Moscow, July 27, 2006
Manoj Kumar

NRI Kamal Tripuraneni PhD in the Materials Chemistry Group at the University of Cambridge was honored with the first prize in a prestigious international space science competition for his project on industrial extraction of oxygen from the lunar soil to commercialize space travel. It would help in industrial extraction of oxygen and metals from the lunar soil to commercialise space travel,’’ Dmitry Peison, secretary of the contest, said.

This contest was conducted by the US Heinlein Prize Trust and assisted by the Russian Aviation and Space Scientific Innovation Educational Complex (RASSIEC). It encouraging young international students and researchers in the field of space exploration. He was working under the supervision of Professor Derek Fray, on a project entitled ‘The Anodic Synthesis of Oxygen from the Electro-deoxidation of Titanium Oxide’. This project essentially involves developing an inert anode that efficiently generates oxygen, instead of carbon oxides that are typically produces during electrolysis with standard carbon anodes.

The most significant component in any rocket is the oxygen required for fuel combustion. This may account for up to 85%wt of the rocket propulsion reactants. Therefore, it is vital that locally produced oxygen is available from off-world resources, to enable viable space travel to more distant regions of our solar system. Our moon in particular is a desirable port for the refuelling of rockets. Through current technological means it is possible to convert titanium-based oxides, which form a considerable fraction of the composition of lunar regolith, into oxygen.

Kamal's project ‘A greater viability of space travel by the lunar generation of oxygen via the FFC-Cambridge process’ has been adjudged as the best by an international jury of experts and awarded first prize of ‘Robert A Heinlein Flight into the Future Contest,’ a spokesman for the US-based trust that conducts it said after presentation of awards here. He received $3,500 cash prize and diploma.

He was born in Hyderabad, India, on January 5th, 1981 and grew-up in mid-Wales, before moving to London to start my degree in Chemical Engineering. He graduated from Imperial College, London, in 2003, with a Masters degree (MEng).