Japanese engineers working on concrete for lunar base

Mitsubishi Materials and Japan’s space agency have begun research into fashioning concrete from materials available on the moon, as part of a concept for a base there.

The Japanese company and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, hope to find a way to make concrete blocks using lunar soil, which contains large amounts of glass. They will apply a technique employed by the ancient Romans in which sand and other materials were mixed with water and heated to create a solid. The research will cover such areas as heating time and temperature.

There are proposals in the works to construct a manned lunar base for mining and space observation in the 2030s. Mitsubishi Materials and JAXA envision their concrete being used for such infrastructure as buildings and roads on the moon.

Because of the huge cost of transporting bulk freight to space — said to be around $1 million per kilogram — any long-term human activity on the moon will require the use of native materials.

Mitsubishi Materials and JAXA aim to develop a technique for making 1 ton of building material using 110kg of water, 50kg of which could be recovered later. Plans call for heating the mixture with sunlight. Plant builder IHI and others will come up with concepts for furnaces.

Technologies developed through this project could also help produce building materials on Earth. Another area of study will be the possibility of encasing radioactive waste.

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