New research has found that humans could turn lunar dirt into smooth, clean roads on the moon — all with the help of a giant lens.
In a study in Scientific Reports this week, scientists created a proof of concept demonstrating how lunar dust could be melted using a giant lens to create solid roads and landing areas.
The scientists experimented with a fine-grained material called “EAC-1A” — developed by the European Space Agency as a substitute for lunar soil. They used a 1.96 inch (50mm) diameter laser beam to heat the dust to about 2,912 degrees Fahrenheit (1,600 degrees Celsius) and melt it.
The researchers slowly traced out bendy triangle shapes, each around 9.84 inches (25cm) across, which could be interlocked to create solid surfaces across large areas of lunar soil, serving as future roads and landing pads.
To reproduce this approach on the moon, the researchers calculated that a lens of approximately 24.5 square feet (2.37 square meters) would need to be transported from Earth to act as a sunlight concentrator in place of the laser. The lens could be made of a polymer foil that could be rolled up, making it easy to transport.
Streets on The Moon, Who Needs That?
“You might think: ‘Streets on the moon, who needs that?’” says Federal Institute of Materials Research and Testing in Berlin and co-author Professor Jens Günster says of the report on the possible solution.
“But in fact it’s a kind of depressing demand [even] early on. It’s very loose material, there’s no atmosphere, gravity is weak, so the dust gets everywhere.
“It contaminates not only your equipment but other nations. No one would be happy to be covered in dust from another rocket.”
According to The Guardian, dust on the moon can make conducting research difficult and is a vexing challenge for space agencies hoping to set up camp.
Dust erodes space suits, clogging machinery, interfering with scientific instruments, and making moving around on the surface arduous.
Transporting building materials to the moon would be too expensive, so there is a requirement for unconventional solutions such as the use of a giant lens.
“You need to use what’s there and that’s simply loose dust,” Günster says.
However, the process of making roads with this method would not be speedy — as it would take about 100 days to create a 32.8 feet x 32.8 feet (10 meter x 10 meter) landing spot. In addition, dust would still be an issue for the lens itself.
“When you accumulate dust on the lens it will sooner or later not function anymore,” Günster says — adding that a vibrating lens may help mitigate this problem.
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.