Moon Dust and Moon Metal - Materials for Lunar In-situ Resource Utilisation

As human spaceflight returns its focus to the moon, creating safe longer-term habitats will be necessary. In situ resource utilisation (ISRU) would seem a requirement and it is perhaps obvious that local lunar regolith material (soil) is a crucial resource.  Starting with the regolith it is clear that processing routes to generate useful building materials are needed. Routes to consolidate the regolith into ceramic blocks through conventional or flash sintering techniques are possible. Electrochemical processes for liberating much needed oxygen from the regolith have been demonstrated.  This leaves the intriguing possibility of using the mixed metal by-product to generate useful materials.  This by-product stream contains a range of useful structural metals including iron, titanium, magnesium and aluminium, but also calcium and silicon, and the oxygen levels remain relatively high.

There is huge potential for developing useful materials via ISRU but characterisation of the likely chemistry, microstructure, morphology, and properties of both the starting materials, and consolidated materials is lacking.  This project will begin exploring the vast space of processing-chemistry-structure-properties relationships that are needed to underpin selection of the viable processing routes so that longer term lunar habitats can be successfully delivered.  The project will involve close collaboration with scientists and engineers at the European Space Agency.

moon dust metal


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