Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Colonies on moon can be built using Lunar rock--like material in future.
Dwellings in colonies on the moon one fine day may be built with a new, highly durable bricks developed by students from the College of engineering at Virginia Tech in the United States.
The building material is composed of a lunar rock--like material mixed with powdered aluminium that may be moulded into any shape,such as a dome. The invention recently won an award from the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES), which is dedicated to supporting life on the moon & beyond.
The early--development lunar bricks were based on previous work by the College of Engineering student team’s adviser Kathryn Logan,a professor of materials science & engineering at Virginia Tech.
Logan’s prior research entailed mixing powdered aluminium and ceramic materials to form armour plating for tanks.
“I theorised that if I could do this kind of reaction to make armour, then I could use a similar type of reaction to make construction materials for colonies on the moon,” Logan said.
Since actual lunar rock, known as regolith, is scarce, the students used volcanic ash from a deposit on Earth along with various minerals and basaltic glass, similar to rock on the lunar surface, according to Eric Faierson, a doctoral student who led the Virginia Tech team.
During initial experiments, the simulated regolith & aluminum powder were mixed & placed inside a shallow aluminium foil crucible. A wire was inserted into this mixture, which was then heated to 1,500 degrees Celsius triggering a reaction called Self--propagating High--temperature Synthesis(SHS), Mr Logan said.
The reaction caused the material to form a solid brick.
Once the students team had created a brick, they found it was almost as strong as concrete under
different pressure tests.
The team will now be studying how they can go about harnessing the very large quantities of heat derived from the SHS reaction to produce the electricity for the lunar colony, Mr Logan said.