Space

Lunar bricks could keep Moon colonists warm and generate electricity

Artist's concept of a future lunar outpost, which could store energy in bricks made from lunar regolith
Artist's concept of a future lunar outpost, which could store energy in bricks made from lunar regolith
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A 1.5-tonne building block of artificial lunar regolith, demonstrating 3D printing using lunar soil
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A 1.5-tonne building block of artificial lunar regolith, demonstrating 3D printing using lunar soil
Homemade regolith brick measuring 5.5 in (14 cm) long
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Homemade regolith brick measuring 5.5 in (14 cm) long
The artificial regolith brick inside a vacuum chamber simulating the low pressures and extreme temperatures that astronauts and technology would face
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The artificial regolith brick inside a vacuum chamber simulating the low pressures and extreme temperatures that astronauts and technology would face
Artist's concept of a future lunar outpost, which could store energy in bricks made from lunar regolith
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Artist's concept of a future lunar outpost, which could store energy in bricks made from lunar regolith
Artist's concept of a future inflatable habitat and landers
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Artist's concept of a future inflatable habitat and landers

Space engineers have long considered lunar soil as locally available material for building outposts on the Moon, and now ESA researchers are considering it as a means to store energy. The Discovery & Preparation study by the agency and Azimut Space aims to determine how the lunar regolith can soak up solar energy during the day, then use it to generate electricity during the 14-day night and protect equipment against freezing.

When astronauts return to the Moon, the plan is to establish an ongoing human presence rather than making occasional visits, as happened during the Apollo program. Due to the huge costs of sending materials to the lunar surface, the building of outposts will have to rely heavily on locally-sourced materials, such as lunar soil or regolith.

According to ESA, regolith can not only be formed into bricks, but these could be configured so they can become heat-storage bricks. To study this idea, the research team made artificial powdered regolith based on an analysis of rock samples brought back by the Apollo missions. This was then formed into bricks and heated under lunar conditions before attaching the bricks to a heat engine to generate electricity.

Homemade regolith brick measuring 5.5 in (14 cm) long
Homemade regolith brick measuring 5.5 in (14 cm) long

"Any Moon-based technology would face incredibly tough conditions – long nights, temperatures ranging from -173° C to 127° C (-279° F to 261° F) and extremely low pressures," says Project Manager Luca Celotti from Azimut Space. "We mimicked these conditions as best as we could to create a 'Moon-like' environment for our brick.

"Using lunar regolith to store heat on the Moon would provide us with an abundance of readily-available material meaning space travelers wouldn't need to take much from Earth. Eventually, this will enable more ambitious space missions to go ahead. This is just the first step towards creating an innovative and sustainable method of heat storage and electricity generation that could make it possible for us to land on the Moon."

Source: ESA

8 comments
anthony88
"This is just the first step towards creating an innovative and sustainable method of heat storage and electricity generation that could make it possible for us to land on the Moon." Shouldn't that be "'live", not "land"?
CLERKY
For those who have a proper education: All that, and it's back down to one on top of two - again, and again, and again. I'm not getting the tools out and dropping-in until it's £1K/K (and that's for common!) Clerky. PS. What's the traveling time & subsistence like?
VincentWolf
There is simply no way we can survive on the Moon or on Mars with no atmosphere, no possibility of making an atmosphere, no magnetic field to block the sun's damaging rays, and no factories to produce materials to survive with. Mankind was only able to survive limited terms on the International Space Station and the Moon and Mars offer little additional protection or materials.
EnergyAudit
The Arrow of Energy is in action, from Earth to Space — “Energy, like time, flows from past to future” (The Fifth Law).
christopher
No point trying to keep them warm for 14-day-long nights, because they'll be dead from space radiation by the end anyhow. The only hope I can think of for a moon presence, is to dig some crazy-deep tunnels and live far enough underground that the depth mimics the protective effects of Earths magnetic and atmospherics barriers - if any such depth even exists.
Steve Downey
The moon does not have 14 days of night, that is why we had the dark side of the moon because the moon rotates at the same speed of the lunar orbit.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
He3. It's almost inevitable. The Chinese are already on it! All of the objections I see here are just silly! The O'neil cylinder is fully designed and requires only 14 ft. of dirt to provide protection equal to that at the Earth's surface. The He3 will provide a highly exothermic source to drive the reaction.
ljaques
That ain't yer gramma's adobe.