Scientists believe that lunar dust may one day serve as a raw material for constructing roads and landing pads on the moon by harnessing concentrated sunlight through large lenses, based on experiments on Earth involving laser-induced fusion of simulated lunar soil, reported Space dot com.
The dust found on the moon primarily consists of lunar volcanic rock that has been ground into a fine powder over millions of years by cosmic impacts and radiation.Despite the moon’s appearance as white due to reflected sunlight, its soil is, in fact, predominantly dark gray.
In contrast to Earth, which experiences erosion from wind and water, the moon lacks these processes. As a result, lunar dust contains many sharp-edged particles, as explained by Juan-Carlos Ginés-Palomares, an aerospace engineer at Aalen University in Germany. This abrasive characteristic of moon dust poses a significant hazard to space exploration.Furthermore, lunar dust typically carries an electrical charge, making it particularly adhesive and sticky, according to Ginés-Palomares. This sticky property can lead to damage to lunar landers, spacesuits, and potential health issues if inhaled.
To mitigate the damage caused by moon dust to rovers on the lunar surface, one solution is to have them travel on constructed roads. However, the transportation of building materials from Earth is costly. Therefore, researchers aim to utilize lunar resources as much as possible. In a recent study, Ginés-Palomares and his colleagues experimented with a fine-grained material called EAC-1A, developed by the European Space Agency as a lunar soil substitute, to investigate if concentrated sunlight could melt lunar dust into solid rock slabs.
In their experiments, the scientists simulated concentrated sunlight using laser beams with varying strengths and sizes, with some reaching up to 12 kilowatts in power and about 4 inches (10 centimeters) in width. They successfully produced triangular, hollow-centered tiles measuring approximately 9.8 inches (25 cm) wide and up to about 1 inch (2.5 millimeters) thick. These tiles could interlock to create solid surfaces across extensive lunar soil areas for use in constructing roads and landing pads.

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Previous research suggested that intense sunlight or laser beams could fuse lunar soil into sturdy structures, but the experiments had not previously produced blocks of this size, nor had they employed light beams of such size and power. According to Ginés-Palomares, to focus sunlight and generate a beam as powerful as the ones used in these experiments on the moon, a lens approximately 5.7 feet (1.74 meters) in diameter would be required.
This approach could enable the creation of lunar tiles using simple equipment in a relatively short period, providing a promising solution for lunar construction. Future experiments will assess the resilience of these tiles to rocket thrust to determine their suitability for landing pads. Researchers may also conduct tests under simulated lunar conditions, such as those without an atmosphere and with reduced gravity, as experienced in parabolic flights. Such tests are crucial to validate the technology’s feasibility before applying it on the moon, as emphasized by Ginés-Palomares.

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