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We can 3D-print moondust bricks with the sun's heat

Your lunar vacation home could one day be made with bricks crafted from moon soil and baked into shape using a solar furnace.

A triangular brick printed from simulated moondust.

ESA-G. Porter

If you wanted to build a house on the moon, what would you use? One option: moondust and the power of the sun.

European Space Agency researchers have figured out how to bake up moon bricks using simulated moondust and a solar furnace. The material they tested was actually "commercially available simulated lunar soil based on terrestrial volcanic material, processed to mimic the composition and grain sizes of genuine moondust," according to the ESA.

The researchers baked very thin layers of the simulated moondust on a 3D printer table at a scorching temperature of around 1,830 Fahrenheit (1000 Celsius). The solar furnace uses curved mirrors to focus sunlight. This isn't a particularly fast process. It takes about five hours to bake up a single brick.

The ESA reports the bricks have an equivalent strength to gypsum, which is a relatively soft mineral. The bricks also displayed some warping around the edges due to the speed of the cooling process.

The project is meant as a proof of concept. Researchers will perform mechanical tests on the bricks and work on reducing the edge warpage.

The ESA previously shared the results of a 3D-printing project using a Mars soil simulant to create tiny structures. It's all in the name of preparing for when humans one day need to create buildings off-world using local resources.

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