Indian scientists use urea to make space bricks for buildings on moon

by Technology | 15-08-2020 | 1709 views

A team of researchers from Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has developed a sustainable process for making brick-like structures on the moon, according to IISc. The process uses urea, which can be sourced from human urine, and lunar soil as raw materials for construction on the moon's surface, the team stated.

It exploits lunar soil, and uses bacteria and guar beans to consolidate the soil into possible load-bearing structures, Bengaluru-based IISc said in a statement.

"These space bricks could eventually be used to assemble structures for habitation on the moons surface, the researchers suggest," it said.

"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'.

One micro bacterium, called 'Sporosarcina pasteurii' produces calcium carbonate crystals through a metabolic pathway called the ureolytic cycle: it uses urea and calcium to form these crystals as byproducts of the pathway.

"Living organisms have been involved in such mineral precipitation since the dawn of the Cambrian period, and modern science has now found a use for them," says Kumar.

To exploit this ability, Kumar and colleagues at IISc teamed up with ISRO scientists Arjun Dey and I Venugopal.

They first mixed the bacteria with a simulant of lunar soil.Then, they added the required urea and calcium sources along with gum extracted from locally-sourced guar beans. The guar gum was added to increase the strength of the material by serving as a scaffold for carbonate precipitation. The final product obtained after a few days of incubation was found to possess significant strength and machinability, the statement said.

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