Additive Manufacturing and Spark Plasma Sintering of Lunar Regolith for Functionally Graded Materials

Authors

  • Mathilde Laot Delft University of Technology
  • Belinda Rich ESA/ESTEC European Space Agency
  • Ina Cheibas ESA/ESTEC European Space Agency
  • Jia Fu Delft University of Technology
  • Jia-Ning Zhu Delft University of Technology
  • Vera Popovich Delft University of Technology

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.7480/spool.2021.2.5258

Keywords:

in-situ resource utilisation, regolith, additive manufacturing, digital light processing, spark plasma sintering, direct laser deposition

Abstract

This study investigates the feasibility of in-situ manufacturing of a functionally graded metallic-regolith. To fabricate the gradient, digital light processing, an additive manufacturing technique, and spark plasma sintering were selected due to their compatibility with metallic-ceramic processing in a space environment. The chosen methods were first assessed for their ability to effectively consolidate regolith alone, before progressing regolith directly onto metallic substrates. Optimized processing conditions based on the sintering temperature, initial powder particle size, and different compositions of the lunar regolith powders were identified. Experiments have successfully proven the consolidation of lunar regolith simulants at 1050°C under 80 MPa with digital light processing and spark plasma sintering, while the metallic powders can be fully densified at relatively low temperatures and a pressure of 50 MPa with spark plasma sintering. Furthermore, the lunar regolith and Ti6Al4V gradient was proven to be the most promising combination. While the current study showed that it is feasible to manufacture a functionally graded metallic-regolith, further developments of a fully optimized method have the potential to produce tailored, high-performance materials in an off-earth manufacturing setting for the production of aerospace, robotic, or architectural components.

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2021-09-12