Monday, February 9, 2009

Some Expected Characteristics of Lunar Dust: A Geological View Applied to Engineering

Hardness vs. Geometry

Kenneth W. Street (NASA Glenn Research Center), Christian M. Schrader (BAE Systems) and Doug Rickman (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center) - Geological Society of America Meeting , Houston, October 2008 - Compared to the Earth the geologic nature of the lunar regolith is quite distinct. Even though similar minerals exist on the Earth and Moon, they may have very different properties due to the absence of chemical modification in the lunar environment.

The engineering properties of the lunar regolith reflect aspects of the parent rock and the consequences of hypervelocity meteor bombardment. On scales relevant to machinery and chemical processing for In-Situ Resource Utilization, ISRU (such as water production), the lunar regolith compositional range is much more restricted than terrestrial material. This fact impacts predictions of properties required by design engineers for constructing equipment for lunar use.

In this paper two examples will be covered. 1) Abrasion is related to hardness and hardness is a commonly measured property for both minerals and engineering materials. Although different hardness scales are routinely employed for minerals and engineering materials, a significant amount of literature is available relating the two.

As one example, we discuss how to relate hardness to abrasion for the design of lunar equipment. We also indicate how abundant the various mineral phases are and typical size distributions for lunar regolith which will impact abrasive nature. 2) Mineral characteristics that may seem trivial to the non-geologist or material scientist may have significant bearing on ISRU processing technologies.

As a second example we discuss the impact of traces of F-, Cl-, and OH-, H2O, CO2, and sulfur species which can radically alter melting points and the corrosive nature of reaction products thereby significantly changing bulk chemistry and associated processing technologies. For many engineering uses, a simulant’s fidelity to bulk lunar regolith chemistry may be insufficient. Therefore, simulant users need to engage in continuing dialogue with simulant developers and geoscientists.

Presentation available for download as pdf - HERE.

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