Written by LeBert Sam| Updated: August 16, 2020 4:41:02 pm
A group of researchers from IISc, Bangalore, and ISRO developed a stable process to make sustainable construction bricks on the moon. Their process exploits lunar soil, urea, guar gum(extract of cluster bean), and bacteria. With this, the researchers were able to produce a solid structure capable of bearing mass.
Buildings on the moon!
“It is really exciting because it brings two different fields biology and mechanical engineering together,” says Aloke Kumar, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, IISc, one of the authors of two studies recently published in ”Ceramics International” and ”PLOS One”.
The major challenge in colonizing space is sending the construction materials. The cost of sending one pound of the payload will be around ₹7.5 lakh, which is a huge amount of money to invest. Scientists all around the world are working on this problem particularly. The astronauts in Internation Space Station (ISS) use 3D printers to build their necessary things. Constructing buildings in space will require more advanced technologies.
Sporosarcina pasteurii, is a gram-positive bacterium with the ability to precipitate calcite and solidify sand given a calcium source and urea through microbiological cementation. The source of urea can be obtained from human urine. The team mixed the bacteria with lunar soil stimulant samples, and then, they added the urea, calcium, and guar gum. The guar gum is used as it has to stabilize properties.
The final product was found to have considerable strength to be used as construction materials. “Our material could be fabricated into any free form shape using a simple lathe. This is advantageous because this completely circumvents the need for specialized molds a common problem when trying to make a variety of shapes by casting.
This capability could also be exploited to make intricate interlocking structures for construction on the moon, without the need for additional fastening mechanisms,” explains Koushik Viswanathan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, IISc, another author.
Previously on May 18, the Indian Patent Office granted a patent to ISRO for inventing a method to stimulate moon soil in the laboratory. The researchers from ISRO, National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirapalli, and Periyar University, Salem, manufactured this artificial moon soil which will be used to test the performance of rovers and landers in the future lunar missions.
More info: Dikshit R, Jain A, Dey A, Kumar A (2020), Microbially induced calcite precipitation using Bacillus velezensis with guar gum, PLOS One, 15(8): e0236745 doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0236745
Dikshit R, Dey A, Gupta N, Varma SC, Venugopal I, Viswanathan K, Kumar A (2020), Space bricks: From LSS to machinable structures via MICP, Ceramics International doi.org/10.1016/j.ceramint.2020.07.309