posted on Jan, 24 2005 @ 04:56 PM
Lunar colony to run on moon dust and robots
10:19 24 January 2005
Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition
Simulated moon dust has been used to make a key component of a working solar cell, giving an unexpected boost to President George W. Bush's project
of setting up a colony on the moon.
Bush's plan, announced a year ago, envisages a permanent lunar base from which people can go out and explore the moon, and then go on to Mars. "We
will need a power source," says David Williams, a planetary and lunar scientist at NASA's National Space Science Data Center in Greenbelt, Maryland,
US. "Bringing stuff up from Earth is really expensive."
Four years ago, Alex Freundlich and his colleagues at the University of Houston in Texas came up with the idea of getting robotic rovers to build
solar cells entirely out of lunar dust or "regolith" (New Scientist print edition, 24 June 2000). This fine, grey powder is half silicon dioxide,
with the remainder made up of a blend of oxides of 12 metals, including aluminium, magnesium and iron.
The team reasoned that this mix contains all the elements necessary to build a solar panel, and suggested that robots trundling over the lunar surface
could melt regolith, refine it and then lay down a glassy substrate on which solar cells could be deposited. The rover - solar-powered, of course -
would leave a trail of solar panels in its wake (see graphic).
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