Humanity likes to go around talking about colonizing the Moon and building bases on it to further our venture into deep space; however, we can agree that building settlements on a not-so-distant rock without proper resources is not an easy feat. Using space shuttles to carry material between such distances is certainly not the way to go, and now, it seems like astronauts will need to pee a lot to become Moon engineers, according to scientists.
A recent research done by scientists has shown that urea present in the urine can be used as a great plasticizer that can be used in 3D printers. The researchers developed numerous experiments to see if urea can soften the surface of a mixture of materials and make them easier to shape and use.
"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," explains one of the authors, Ramón Pamies.
The team used a 3D printer to make the material from a regolith substitute combined with urea. Not only the experiment was successful, but they also saw that the mixture could support heavy weights and remain almost stable in shape.
While regolith and ice are fine substitutes, there is still a need for further research to find the best material that can be used to build the bases. Once that is accomplished, they can be the main ingredient that we can use to mass-produce materials in 3D printers on Moon.
While this works perfectly in theory, the researchers still need to address how the urea will be extracted from the urine.
Luckily for us, peeing is relatively free, and it is highly unlikely that we’ll ever run out of it. This is such a relief since transportation to the Moon can cost up to USD 10,000 for 0.45 kgs.
The paper has been published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.