Graphene put to the test of the fearsome lunar dust


Graphene-based composites will be tested on the wheels of a little rover who will travel on the first private mission to the Moon to test the resistance to lunar dust or regolith.

The regolith is composed of extremely sharp grainstiny and sticky and, since the Apollo missions, has been one of the biggest challenges lunar missions have had to overcome.

Regolith can cause mechanical and electrostatic damage to equipment and is therefore also dangerous for astronauts. Clogs spacesuit joints, obscures visors, erodes spacesuits and protective shells, and is a potential health hazard.

Cambridge researchers have produced special graphene compounds aimed at reducing regolith sticking. Said compounds have been used in the wheels of the Rashid rover that the United Arab Emirates includes in the Hakuto-R 1 mission that the Japanese company ispace is preparing to send to the Moon to land on its surface.

The graphene samples will be monitored through an optical camera, which will record images throughout the mission. Researchers from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) will collect information during the mission and suggest adjustments to the rover’s route and orientation. The data and images obtained will be used to study the effects of the lunar environment and the abrasive stresses of the regolith on the samples.

“Being able to follow the progress of the lunar rover in real time will allow us to track how the lunar environment impacts various types of graphene and polymer composites, allowing us to infer which of them is most resilient under such conditions,” he said. it’s a statement Sara Almaeeni, MBRSC (Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center) Science Team Leader, who designed Rashid’s communication system. “This will improve our understanding of how graphene-based composites could be used in the construction of future lunar surface craft.”

“New materials like graphene have the potential to be a game changer in future human space exploration,” said Carlo Iorio, Graphene Flagship Space Champion, from the ULB. “In combination with the resources available on the moon, advanced materials will enable radiation shielding, electronic shielding, and mechanical resistance to the harsh lunar environment. The Rashid rover will be the first opportunity to collect data on the behavior of these new materials in a lunar environment.”

In addition to the lunar rover mission, last week they also tested a variety of inks containing graphene and related materials prepared by the University of Cambridge and ULB on the Materials Science Experiment Rocket 15 (MASER 15) mission, which launched on November 23 from the Esrange Space Center in Sweden.

The ARLES-2 (Advanced Research on Liquid Evaporation in Space) experiment will provide new information on printing inks based on graphene and related materials under weightless conditions, contributing to the development of new addictive manufacturing processes in space. . These are key to space exploration, where replacement components will be needed and could be made from functional inks.