Humanity’s next destination is the Moon, with NASA hoping to land astronauts there in 2024. When there, astronauts will be tasked with building a base on the lunar surface which will be used as a home and a laboratory.

However, one of the main stumbling blocks with building a base on the Moon is getting the materials there.

However, new research has suggested that extracting urea from urine could be to plasticise the concrete used to build structures on the Moon, making them less brittle and more flexible.

By using this with the materials already on the Moon would solve the logistical nightmare of transporting all the materials from Earth to our lunar satellite.

Materials scientist Ramón Pamies of the Polytechnic University of Cartagena in Spain said: “To make the geopolymer concrete that will be used on the Moon, the idea is to use what is there: regolith (loose material from the Moon’s surface) and the water from the ice present in some areas.

“But moreover, with this study we have seen that a waste product, such as the urine of the personnel who occupy the Moon bases, could also be used.

“The two main components of this body fluid are water and urea, a molecule that allows the hydrogen bonds to be broken and, therefore, reduces the viscosities of many aqueous mixtures.”

Structures on the Moon will need to be extremely hardy in order to withstand the drastic changes the Moon endures.

Temperatures vary massively, changing from 120 degrees Celsius (250 Fahrenheit) during the day to -130C (-208F) at night.

There is also no atmosphere on the Moon, meaning anything on the surface is bombarded with radiation from the Sun.

The lack of atmosphere also means that there is nothing to help burn up objects such as meteors bombarding the lunar satellite.

For reference, an estimated 44,000 kilograms (97,000 pounds) of meteoric material hits Earth each day, but the atmosphere means it burns up before it hits the ground.

This is why researchers have been testing the properties of urea by building structures using it to put them through strength tests.

Using a 3D printer, the researchers made cylinders constructed using properties from urea.

One cylinder was made with urea also included polycarboxylate-based superplasticises and another using and naphthalene-based superplasticisers.

The team found that the naphthalene-based superplasticiser worked better as it was flexible, yet strong, whereas the polycarboxylate was too rigid and developed stress fractures under strength testing.

Furthermore, the urea might not even need to be extracted from the urine as the liquid could be used as a mixture.

Materials scientist Anna-Lena Kjøniksen of Østfold University College in Norway said: “We have not yet investigated how the urea would be extracted from the urine, as we are assessing whether this would really be necessary, because perhaps its other components could also be used to form the geopolymer concrete.

“The actual water in the urine could be used for the mixture, together with that which can be obtained on the Moon, or a combination of both.”

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