Sintering of Lunar Glass and Basalt

by Carlton C. Allen, Lockheed Engineering & Sciences, Co, Houston, United States,
Joy A. Hines, Lockheed Engineering & Sciences, Co, Houston, United States,
David S. McKay, Lockheed Engineering & Sciences, Co, Houston, United States,
Richard V. Morris, Lockheed Engineering & Sciences, Co, Houston, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Engineering, Construction, and Operations in Space III


Sintering of the regolith has been proposed as a method for producing construction materials from local resources at a lunar base. Applications for lunar 'bricks' include road beds, foundations, unpressurized structures, insulation and radiation protection. Experiments were conducted to study the sintering behavior of glass and basalt lunar soil simulants. The degree of sintering was assessed by compressive strength testing and microanalysis. Both crushed glass and basalt sinter significantly at 1000°C, with the basalt attaining its maximum strength at 1100°C. Initial sintering occurs in less than 15 minutes, and the degree of sintering does not increase significantly with time after approximately 30 minutes. Glass sinters more readily than crystalline material. Sintering and devitrification both occur on a time scale of minutes in the heated glass, but sintering is apparently more rapid. The compressive strength of sintered basalt is strongly dependent on grain size, with the maximum strength corresponding to grain sizes below a few hundred micrometers. Sintering of crushed basalt does not involve significant densification. Bricks with the compressive strength of concrete can be produced by sintering basalt for 30 minutes at 1100°C. The same process on the moon is predicted to produce stronger material, due to the nature of the lunar soil and environment. The processes of sintering and oxygen release by hydrogen reduction of lunar soil are synergystic, and could be combined to produce two extremely useful products at a lunar base.

Subject Headings: Compressive strength | Space construction | Materials processing | Moon | Glass | Construction methods | Bricks | Lunar materials

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