Building Blocks for the First Permanent Moon Base

Illustration for article titled Building Blocks for the First Permanent Moon Base

A group of students at Virginia Tech have invented the first bricks that could be build entirely on the Moon, using lunar rocks and powderized aluminum. It's "fired" by fusing the materials with superhot wire.


Here you can see one of the team's bricks, created using volcanic ash instead of lunar regolith - the ash is the closest approximation to moon rocks on Earth. Once the powderized aluminum goes in, the wires fuse everything together into a substance that's as hard as concrete and can withstand the wear caused by low-gravity on the Moon. (Those letters burning into the brick, by the way, stand for National Institute of Aerospace, which helped sponsor the research. I'm guessing the letters underneath are VT for Virginia Tech? Either that, or it's the Van Halen logo.)

For their successful design, the students won the In-Situ Lunar Resource Utilization materials and construction category award from the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) .

According to X-Journal:

During initial experiments, the simulated regolith and aluminum powder were mixed and placed inside a shallow aluminum foil crucible. A wire was inserted into the mixture, which was then heated to 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit triggering a reaction called self-propagating high-temperature synthesis (SHS), Logan said. The reaction caused the material to form a solid brick. A ceramic crucible was used in later experiments to form complex curved surfaces.

Once the student team had created a brick, they found that it was almost as strong as concrete under various pressure tests. Faierson said one-square inch of the brick could withstand the gradual application of 2,450 pounds, nearly the weight of a Ford Focus. This strength would enable it to withstand an environment where gravity is a fraction of the pull on Earth. The more than yearlong ongoing research has included studying the bricks reaction to solar radiation and their effectiveness as a construction material for lunar applications.

SOURCE: X-Journals


Corpore Metal

I don't think building or raw materials was ever really a problem for colonizing the Moon.

The problem is what lunar gravity will do to the human body as children are born on the Moon. I don't think we will ever colonize the Moon or other planets in the solar system until we heavily bio-engineer ourselves. Until then, we're just visiting or letting the robots do all the work.