Revolutionary space brick to form load-bearing structures on Moon

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Space Brick (Image tweeted by @airnewsalerts)
Space Brick (Image tweeted by @airnewsalerts)

New Delhi : In a revolutionary development, the scientists from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the Indian Space Research Organisation ( ISRO) have developed a sustainable process to create a brick-like structure on the moon. It exploits lunar soil, and uses bacteria and guar beans to consolidate the soil into possible load-bearing structures.

Named as 'space brick', this can be used to make structures on the moon for habitation.

"It is really exciting because it brings two different fields—biology and mechanical engineering—together," says Aloke Kumar, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, IISc, one of the authors of two studies recently published in Ceramics International and PLOS One.

The space exploration has evolved drastically in recent times. With resources getting less on planet Earth, the researchers have intensified their studies to find habitable structures on the moon and other planets.

The cost of sending one pound of material to outer space is about $10,000. The process developed by the IISc and ISRO team uses urea - which can be sourced from human urine - and lunar soil as raw materials for construction on the moon's surface.

With this the cost of production can be decreased drastically. (Also Read: Astronauts urine to be used to build moon bases)

The PLOS One study, conceived by Rashmi Dikshit, a DBT-BioCARe Fellow at IISc, also investigated the use of other locally available soil bacteria in the place of S. pasteurii. After testing different soil samples in Bangalore, the researchers found an ideal candidate with similar properties: Bacillus velezensis. Just a vial of S. pasteurii can cost Rs. 50,000; B. velezensis, on the other hand, is about ten times less expensive, the researchers say.

The researchers believe that this is one of the greatest developments towards building structures in the outer space. "We have quite a distance to go before we look at extra-terrestrial habitats. Our next step is to make larger bricks with a more automated and parallel production process," says Kumar. "Simultaneously, we would also like to further enhance the strength of these bricks and test them under varied loading conditions like impacts and possibly moonquakes."