Investigating the microwave heating behaviour of lunar soil simulant JSC-1A at different input powers

Lim, Sungwoo; Bowen, James; Degli Alessandrini, Giulia; Anand, Mahesh; Cowley, Aidan and Vibha, Vibha (2021). Investigating the microwave heating behaviour of lunar soil simulant JSC-1A at different input powers. Scientific reports, 11, article no. 2133 (2021).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-81691-w

URL: https://rdcu.be/cd9Vd

Abstract

For a sustainable human presence on the Moon, it is critical to develop technologies that could utilise the locally available resources (a.k.a. in situ resource utilisation or ISRU) for habitat construction. As the surface soil is one of the most widely available resources at the Moon, we have investigated the viability of microwave heating of a lunar soil simulant (JSC-1A). JSC-1A was thermally treated in a bespoke microwave apparatus using 2.45 GHz frequency, using five different microwave powers in the range of 250 W to 1000 W. The structural properties of the resulting products were analysed to determine whether their microstructures and mechanical strengths differ under different input powers; and whether input power plays a crucial role in triggering thermal runaway, for identifying the optimum power for developing a microwave-heating. Our key findings are: (i) the higher input powers (800 W and 1000 W) generate the highest yields and microstructures with the greatest mechanical strengths, at the shortest fabrication times, and (ii) thermal runaway improves the microwave heating efficiency despite the rapid increase in temperature, once it is triggered. Our findings are of key importance for developing a microwave-heating payload for future lunar ISRU demonstration missions, contributing towards 3D printing-based extra-terrestrial construction processes.

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