What Is Lunarcrete?
What Is Lunarcrete?
Lunarcrete is a hypothetical material for building on the moon that is similar to concrete and made from lunar regolith. The idea behind it is to reduce construction costs of building on the Moon. There have been small-scale experiments on creating this material by researchers.
The basic ingredients for Lunarcrete are the same as regular concrete: aggregate, water, and cement. The aggregate would be lunar regolith and the cement would be made from lunar rock with high calcium content.
Water can be sourced either off the Moon or through combining oxygen and hydrogen from lunar soil. One of the methods proposed by Lin et al. used lunar regolith samples obtained by Apollo 16 to create Lunarcrete, then cure it with steam.
This process is capable of withstanding high compressive pressures. However, other researchers such as Houssam Toutanji and Richard Grugel proposed a method of making Lunarcrete without water, by using sulfur as the binding agent, which required heating the sulfur to high temperatures. This process also showed good compressive strength after being exposed to temperature changes.
Casting And Production Of Lunarcrete
The creation of lunar cement requires a significant amount of energy, estimated at 2,200 kW h per megatonne, and thus, substantial infrastructure must be in place before large-scale production can occur.
In addition, the casting process must take place in a pressurized environment, as casting in a vacuum would cause the water required for curing to evaporate, resulting in the failure of the lunarcrete to harden.
Two potential solutions to this issue have been proposed, such as premixing the aggregate and cement and then using steam injection to add water, or using a pressurized concrete fabrication plant to produce pre-cast blocks.
Similar to terrestrial concrete, lunarcrete also lacks tensile strength. Potential solutions for creating pre-stressed concrete include using lunar glass, which can be made from regolith, or importing materials such as Kevlar from Earth.
Benefits Of Lunarcrete
A Lunarcrete is a special type of concrete developed for use on the Moon. It has many advantages over traditional concrete, including;
Being lighter and allowing for easier construction on the Lunar surface. The use of lunarcrete as a construction material for lunar bases offers several benefits, including reduced energy consumption during production compared to steel, aluminum, and brick, resistance to temperature extremes ranging from +120 °C to −150 °C, ability to absorb gamma rays, and maintenance of material integrity even in a vacuum.
However, it should be noted that lunarcrete is not naturally airtight and would require an additional epoxy coating to seal the interior of any structure.
Hypothetical lunar buildings constructed from lunarcrete would likely use a low-grade composite concrete block for interior rooms and compartments, while a high-grade, dense silica particle cement-based concrete is used for the building’s exterior skin.
This combination of lunarcrete grades allows for thermal insulation abilities and superior protection against the extreme temperatures, vacuum and radiation levels on the moon’s surface.
Furthermore, because these blocks can be pre-made in shapes that better fit the design requirements of architects, they require less construction labor than standard earthbound mortar systems; thereby increasing efficiency while lowering already sparse resources required to build lunar structures.