Clarkson Professor Awarded NASA Grant to Study Lunar Concrete

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Potsdam, NY (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Robert Thomas, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Clarkson University, has been awarded a nearly $100k research grant from NASA to study lunar concrete, which is an infrastructure material designed for use in lunar construction.

NASA’s Moon-to-Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction Technology (MMPACT) program seeks to deliver technologies to support infrastructure construction (landing pads, habitats, etc.) on the lunar surface. Thomas, whose research focuses on advanced infrastructure materials, will tackle the challenge of making concrete on the Moon.

“With launch costs on the order of $10k per kg of payload, it is not feasible to use terrestrial cements in extraterrestrial construction. This project will develop and characterize infrastructure materials based on available lunar resources,” Thomas said.

Thomas is collaborating with researchers from Penn State on this project. “We will use simulated lunar regolith to produce a geopolymer concrete–both in the terrestrial laboratory and on the International Space Station’s microgravity platform–and study its microstructure and micromechanical properties,” Thomas said.

Due to the scarcity of materials and size constraints, Thomas and his team will study these materials at the microscopic level. Characterizing the composition, structure, and mechanics of lunar concrete at this scale should give them valuable clues about how it will perform at the structural scale in the complex lunar environment.

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