Sintered regolith

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Construction elements from sintered regolith

Sintered regolith has been proposed as a construction material on the Moon. This technology might be extended to Mars. Sintering is the fusion of mineral particles through the application of heat. The particles are heated just enough to induce fusion, but not enough to fully melt.

Ceramic objects are produced by sintering natural and artificial ceramics, held in place by binders that are evaporated in the sintering process. However sintering can be done directly without water. As the moon is dry water binders may be problematic. On Mars, water should be readily available and ceramic production may be possible by methods similar to those used on Earth.

Methods

Laser Sintering

Laser sintering is used in rapid prototyping applications.

Solar Sintering

Solar energy can be focused on the regolith to achieve the 1300 degree C temperature required for sintering.

Microwave Sintering

A microwave can be used to heat regolith.

Furnace Sintering

Large kilns are used to heat the regolith as it is held in a mould.

Furnace sintering is the classic method for producing ceramic goods on Earth. However, these are held together with binders that are evaporated during the sintering process.

Materials

Practically any material than can be produced in particle form can be sintered. Ceramics, minerals, glasses and metals are all possible candidates.

Use

Construction

Sintered Regolith blocks are a possible construction material. Further testing is needed to determine the structural characteristics of such blocks. Possibilities include Universal bricks and arch segments.

Rapid Prototyping

Laser sintering and additive manufacturing can produce custom items. Laser sintering comprises thin, sequential layers of media are laid down, and sintered together to form the item. Additive manufacturing consists of building up products layer by layer in a semi-molten state until they set into stabilize in solid form.

See Also