MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES

Challenging low gravity, German scientists want to pave the way on the moon


German scientists have shown that using lasers to melt lunar soil to create harder layered material has the potential to create paving roads and landing pads on the moon. Although these experiments were conducted on Earth using lunar dust substitutes, the findings demonstrated the feasibility of the technique and showed that it could be replicated on the Moon. The study was published in Scientific Reports on October 12.

Lunar dust is a major challenge for lunar rovers, and due to the low gravity on the moon, lunar dust can float around when disturbed and can damage equipment. As a result, infrastructure such as roads and landing pads are critical to mitigating dust problems and facilitating transportation on the moon. But transporting building materials from Earth is expensive, so it is necessary to use existing resources on the moon.

Miranda Fateri from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at the Allen University of Applied Sciences and Jens Gunster from the Institute of Nonmetallic Materials at the Technical University of Clausthal used a carbon dioxide laser to melt a fine-grained material called EAC-1A, developed by the European Space Agency, as a lunar soil substitute and to simulate how lunar dust is melted into solid matter by focused solar radiation on the moon.

The authors experimented with laser beams of different intensities and sizes (up to 12 kilowatts and 100 millimeters wide, respectively) to create a robust material. Studies have confirmed that crossing or overlapping laser beam paths can lead to rupture. But the authors developed a strategy to create a triangular, centeredly hollow geometry about 250 millimeters in size using a 45-millimeter-diameter laser beam. They can be embedded with each other to create solid surfaces in large areas of lunar soil that serve as roads and landing pads.

“Reproducing this method on the moon requires transporting a lens of about 2.37 square meters from Earth past to act as a sunlight focuser instead of a laser. Fateri said this could be an advantage in future lunar missions due to the small size of the equipment required. (Source: Feng Weiwei, China Science News)

Rendering of roads and landing pads on the lunar surface. Image courtesy of Liquifer Systems Group

The laser power of 3 kW is output on the 45 mm laser spot, and the structure can be embedded in the EAC-1A powder bed. Image courtesy of Jens Gunster

The laser power of 3 kW is output on the 45 mm laser spot, and the structure can be embedded in the EAC-1A powder bed. Image courtesy of Jens Gunster

Related paper information:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-42008-1



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