- A recent discovery by a team of UCF researchers suggests that construction in space could be possible with bricks made of lunar regolith and saltwater.
University of Central Florida (UCF) Researchers, led by Associate Professor Ranajay Ghosh, recently created 3D printed lunar regolith bricks that can withstand the extreme environments of space and are a good candidate for cosmic construction projects. The loose dust, rocks, and materials that cover the moon’s surface are referred to as lunar regolith.
The findings of their experiments are detailed in a recent issue of Ceramics International and were previously featured in New Scientist magazine.
Associate Professor Ranajay Ghosh of UCF’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering commented on the new development saying, “It is always an honour to be able to publish our work in a prestigious journal such as Ceramics International, and we are quite delighted that New Scientist picked our research to publish in their magazine. Considering UCF’s special place as a space grant university, we feel privileged to contribute to the great tradition of scientific knowledge.”
3D Printed Lunar Regolith Bricks
Ghosh’s team in the Complex Structures and Mechanics of Solids (COSMOS) Lab used 3D printing and binder jet technology (BJT), an additive manufacturing method that forces a liquid binding agent onto a bed of powder, to create the 3D printed lunar regolith bricks. The binding agent in Ghosh’s experiments was saltwater, and the powder was regolith created by UCF’s Exolith Lab.
Ghosh explained, “BJT is uniquely suitable for ceramic-like materials that are difficult to melt with a laser. Therefore, it has great potential for regolith-based extraterrestrial manufacturing in a sustainable way to produce parts, components and construction structures.”
The BJT process produced weak cylindrical bricks known as green parts, which were then baked at high temperatures to create a stronger structure. Bricks baked at lower temperatures crumbled, but those exposed to temperatures as high as 1200 degrees Celsius could withstand pressures up to 250 million times that of the Earth’s atmosphere.
According to Ghosh, the research paves the way for the use of BJT in the construction of materials and structures in space. Their findings also show that off-world structures can be built using resources found in space, reducing the need to transport building materials for missions like Artemis.
Ghosh added, “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. 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.”
Peter Warren, Ghosh’s graduate research assistant, is the paper’s first author. Mechanical engineering doctoral candidate Nandhini Raju, mechanical engineering alumnus Hossein Ebrahimi ’21PhD, mechanical engineering doctoral student Milos Krsmanovic, and aerospace engineering professors Seetha Raghavan and Jayanta Kapat are among those who contributed to the paper.
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