Scientists consider urine as building material for moon bases

Date:31 March 2020 Author: Adrian Brown Tags:, ,

As part of humankind’s ventures into living in and exploring outer space, organisations such as NASA, and the European Space Agency (ESA) among others plan to build bases on the moon.

According to Somag News, NASA plans to begin construction of the first base on the moon in 2028. While building a base may seem like an easy task (they are scientists after all), it may not be that simple.

Apart from obvious issues that may cause a problem for the inhabitation of the moon, such as extreme temperatures and radiation levels, there is one which is much more logistical, building materials.

It would be quite difficult, and tremendously expensive to transport all the required building materials from Earth to the moon. Thus, investigations into solving this conundrum are underway.

Research published this week, in the Journal of Cleaner Production, suggests that space agencies could use the urea in the urine of astronauts as a plasticizer to create “moon concrete” for building.

“To make the geopolymer concrete that will be used on the Moon, the idea is to use what is there: regolith (loose material from the moon’s surface) and the water from the ice present in some areas,” said materials scientist Ramón Pamies of the Polytechnic University of Cartagena in Spain according to Sinc Technology. 

“But moreover, with this study we have seen that a waste product, such as the urine of the personnel who occupy the moon bases, could also be used. The two main components of this body fluid are water and urea, a molecule that allows the hydrogen bonds to be broken and, therefore, reduces the viscosities of many aqueous mixtures.”

Experiments were carried out at Østfold University College, using a material similar to regolith created by ESA. They found that those samples containing urea were able to carry heavy weights and mostly did not bend.

Anna-Lena Kjøniksen, one of the researchers from Østfold University College, said that they are yet to figure out how the urea will be extracted while on the moon. “We are assessing whether this would really be necessary, because the other components could also be used to form the geopolymer concrete,” she said.

Of course, further testing is necessary as is investigation into other materials to find the best option for building moon bases.

Picture: Twitter / Lunar Astronomy; Moon’ Exploration & Coloniz/ News

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