Chinese scientists to explore lunar construction materials, technology

The Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) recently received 500 mg of lunar samples brought back by the Song-5 mission. A research team with BIT will study the material properties of these samples and the associated additive manufacturing technology with a view to building a future lunar research station.

Shen Jun, a professor at the School of Mechanical Engineering at BIT, noted that international and domestic plans to build lunar research stations have been drawn up, and his team will focus on related preliminary research.

“Building a lunar research station is like building a house on the moon. Due to current rocket carrying capacity limitations and the high cost of transportation between Earth and the Moon, the construction of a lunar research station requires the use of indigenous materials on the Moon. That means lunar soil will act as the main material,” Shen said.

The professor said that the scientific study is planned to be conducted in two phases. First, the basic physical properties of the samples will be studied, including optical and electromagnetic features.

Subsequently, the team will investigate the particle surface properties of lunar soil and search for more suitable 3D printing techniques and materials that can be printed in suitable shapes when mixed with lunar soil.

„Comparing lunar soil with cement, we first need to study the characteristics of cement, find suitable materials such as sand and adhesives to mix with cement, and finally ensure that we have the technology to make bricks. A mixture of cement and sand,” Shen added.

Lunar soil molding technology faces many challenges such as material compatibility, composition stability and printing reliability.

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Lunar samples will not be used for construction experiments. Instead, the team plans to create simulated lunar soil with materials found on Earth and continue to improve development methods and construction techniques based on analytical data from lunar samples obtained.

„BIT will make full use of these valuable lunar samples, and is committed to providing the theoretical basis and technical support for the future construction of lunar research stations,” said Zhang Jun, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and Party Chairman of BIT. .

He said the university would cooperate with related institutions in scientific research and personnel training, and contribute to the exploitation of lunar resources and the peaceful use of outer space by mankind.

Consisting of an orbiter, a lander, an ascent and a returner, Chang’e-5 was launched in November 2020 and returned to Earth in December of that year. It recovered a total of 1,731 grams of lunar samples, mainly rocks and soil from the lunar surface.

Five batches of lunar samples have been delivered to 98 research teams since July 12, 2021. To date, more than 60 new related findings have been published in academic journals.

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