In a recent study published in Ceramics International, a team of researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF) have created 3D-printed bricks of lunar regolith that could be used to construct buildings on the Moon for the Artemis missions in the coming years. This study has the potential to drastically decrease the cost of sending construction materials to the Moon, since the Moon itself could be mined for construction materials.
For the study, the researchers combined binder jet technology (BJT)—a procedure used in manufacturing that involves forcing a liquid binding agent onto a powder bed—and 3D printing to create the bricks. In this case, the liquid binding agent was saltwater and the lunar regolith acted as the powder.
"BJT is uniquely suitable for ceramic-like materials that are difficult to melt with a laser," said Dr. Ranajay Ghosh, who is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UCF, and a co-author on the study. "Therefore, it has great potential for regolith-based extraterrestrial manufacturing in a sustainable way to produce parts, components and construction structures."
Once the BJT process was complete, the bricks were subjected to temperatures up to 1200 degrees Celsius (2192 degrees Fahrenheit) which strengthened their structural integrity while allowing them to resist pressure equivalent to 250 million times the atmosphere of the Earth. It was discovered that bricks subjected to lower temperatures crumbled.
"This research contributes to the ongoing debate in space exploration community on finding the balance between in-situ extraterrestrial resource utilization versus material transported from Earth," said Dr. Ghosh. "The further we develop techniques that utilize the abundance of regolith, the more capability we will have in establishing and expanding base camps on the moon, Mars, and other planets in the future."
Sources: Ceramics International
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