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Thursday, February 25, 2021

IISc teams up with ISRO to create brick-like structure on the moon

Indian scientists take a significant step forward in space research. A team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) & the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Bangalore came together to form a sustainable process for creating brick-like formations on the moon. 

On 14 August 2020, IISc tweeted saying, ” IISc & ISRO scientists have developed a sustainable process for making “space bricks” from lunar soil using bacteria & guar gum. These could eventually be used to assemble structures for habitation on the moon’s surface.”

Photo Credits: IISc
A team of researchers of IISc and ISRO creates brick-like structure.

Brick-like structure

As the Earth resources are diminishing rapidly, scientists globally are attempting with enhanced research to inhabit the moon and other planets. 

The IISc with ISRO has used the raw materials like lunar soil and urea obtained from human urine to construct the brick-like structure surface of the moon. It exploits lunar soil, uses bacteria and guar beans to compact the soil into potential load sustaining Brick like structure. 

“It is really exciting because it brings two different fields; biology & mechanical engineering together,” says Aloke Kumar, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, IISc. 

Material and cost for Brick-like structure

According to IISC’s statement, “the brick-like structures on the moon exploit lunar soil, needs bacteria and guar beans to pack the soil into possible load-bearing structures.”

It exploits lunar soil, uses bacteria and guar beans to compact the soil into potential load sustaining Brick like structure. 

Some micro-organisms produce mineral by metabolic pathways. One among that bacterium is Sporosarcina pasteurii can produce calcium carbonate crystals by a metabolic pathway which is called the ureolytic cycle. The pathway uses urea and calcium to produce these crystals. 

“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,” Kumar said. 

To send out one pound of material to outer space it would cost over Rs 7.5 lakh. The developed structure by the IISc and ISRO has a lower carbon footprint as guar gum plays as an alternative of cement for support. 

Rashmi Dikshit, a DBT-BioCARe Fellow at IISc, examined the effectiveness of different available soil bacteria as an alternative to S. pasteurii.

She after multiple research in Bangalore found a perfect match with similar properties that are Bacillus velezensis. A small container of S. pasteurii can range up to Rs. 50,000. On the other hand, B. velezensis is ten times less expensive. 

Process

Aloke Kuma from Bengaluru’s IISc with Arjun Dey and Venugopal, scientists from ISRO worked on mixing the bacteria by a stimulant of lunar soil. Further, the required raw materials were added with gum obtained from guar bars. Following an incubation, for a few days. The final extracted outcome was determined to have the capability of strength and machinability.

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