Using sunlight and lunar dust, lunar highways can be created through 3D printing.


The Moon has long been a source of fascination for scientists and space enthusiasts alike. And as we continue to explore the possibilities of lunar colonization, the need for infrastructure becomes increasingly important. That’s why a team of researchers from the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM), the Clausthal University of Technology, the Aalen University of Applied Sciences, and the Liquifer Systems Group has embarked on an innovative project to turn moon dust into infrastructure.

The project, called PAVER (paving the road for large area sintering of regolith), aims to create interlocking “paving stones” that can be used to pave roads and landing pads on the Moon. The team is using 3D printing technology and a lunar dust equivalent material called EAC-1A, which has been officially qualified by the European Space Agency (ESA). By using a layer-by-layer sintering approach and a representative laser on Earth, the researchers hope to produce large-scale 3D printed elements that could be used during lunar explorations.

However, this innovative approach has not been without its challenges. The team found that overlapping laser tracks led to excessive temperature differences in the material, resulting in crack formations. To counter this issue, the researchers designed triangle-shaped pieces with a hole in the middle, which prevented the laser from printing over the same spot twice. This modification allowed them to create interlocking “paving stones” that form a stable surface for lunar roads and landing pads.

The importance of developing permanent infrastructure on the Moon cannot be overstated. Lunar dust, also known as regolith, can pose a threat to machinery and equipment used in space missions. When disturbed, these dust particles can remain suspended in the thin atmosphere for long periods, potentially contaminating and damaging essential equipment. Therefore, the construction of roads and landing pads is crucial to reduce these dust-related problems.

Transporting building materials from Earth to the Moon would be prohibitively expensive and logistically challenging. The cost of sending just one kilogram of payload to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2022 was approximately $10,000. Transporting the materials required for extensive lunar infrastructure would multiply these costs exponentially. That’s why scientists are turning to the Moon’s surface for solutions.

The abundant lunar dust offers a promising solution to the construction challenges on the Moon. BAM’s study is innovative in using laser beams to convert lunar dust simulant into a durable building material. However, transporting high-powered lasers to the Moon is not feasible due to their weight. Instead, the researchers propose using sunlight. They employ a lightweight film-based Fresnel lens to focus sunlight with high intensity, eliminating the need for lasers. This approach aligns with the principles of in-space manufacturing and in-situ resource utilization, emphasizing the utilization of available resources.

Additive manufacturing, with its flexibility and geometric freedom, is an ideal candidate for on-site fabrication on the Moon and other planets. By melting lunar regolith with concentrated sunlight, BAM scientists can create the infrastructure needed for future lunar exploration and colonization.

The PAVER project represents a significant step forward in lunar infrastructure development. By using 3D printing technology and harnessing the power of the Sun, researchers are paving the way for a sustainable and cost-effective approach to construction on the Moon. As we continue to explore the possibilities of space exploration, innovative projects like PAVER will play a crucial role in our journey to the stars.

Unleashing the Power of 3D Printing: Paving the Way for Lunar Infrastructure

In a groundbreaking development, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) have made significant progress towards building a reliable infrastructure on the Moon. Their collaboration, known as the PAVER project, has successfully demonstrated the potential of laser melting manufacturing using lunar regolith simulant for paving applications.

The project, which concluded in December 2022, recently published its findings in the prestigious Nature Journal under the title “Laser melting manufacturing of large elements of lunar regolith simulant for paving on the Moon.” The research offers detailed insights into the feasibility of using light to melt regolith for paving purposes, presenting a remarkable solution for constructing solid roads on the lunar surface.

Jens Günster, the lead coordinator of the PAVER project, expressed enthusiasm for the results and highlighted the significance of additive manufacturing in establishing human bases on the Moon. He remarked, “Our results show the great potential that additive manufacturing has. They bring us a significant step closer to building a reliable infrastructure on the moon as planned by the European Space Agency (ESA).”

Funded and supported by the ESA’s Discovery Programme, BAM recognizes the importance of continued collaboration with space agencies and organizations. The project has also enjoyed the participation of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) as an associate partner, contributing to its success.

This innovative approach to lunar construction has attracted the attention of numerous space agencies and private firms worldwide. ICON, a leading 3D construction company, is actively developing a lunar surface additive construction system. Similarly, Luyten, an Australian manufacturer specializing in additive construction equipment, has partnered with the University of New South Wales Sydney to accelerate the development of 3D printing for lunar structures. Jacobs, a major player in infrastructure and engineering, is focusing on extracting building materials from Martian and lunar regolith through autonomous additive construction systems.

These initiatives not only underscore the vast potential of additive manufacturing but also emphasize the importance of utilizing available resources efficiently. As we gaze towards the stars, we must learn from these endeavors and apply the lessons here on Earth, promoting sustainability and resourcefulness.

For the latest news and updates from the 3D printing industry and exclusive information from third-party vendors, stay connected and stay informed. The future of space exploration is within our grasp, and we have only just begun to unlock its remarkable potential.

Original source


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