A method was developed of synthesizing agglutinates as components of simulated Lunar regolith. The method is needed for further development of Lunar-exploration capabilities because natural Lunar regolith contains agglutinates that contribute significantly to its mechanical and thermophysical properties. Agglutinates are particles that, in the Lunar case, are aggregates of smaller regolith particles (mineral grains, glasses, and even older agglutinates) bonded together by vesicular, flow-banded glass.

Figure 1. The Thin and Cross-Section SEM Images show that irregular shape, heterogeneous composition, and internal bubbles found in Lunar agglutinates (top) are also present in simulated agglutinates (bottom). (Note: SEM is scanning electron microscope.)
Figure 2. The SEM Images show how the trails of metallic iron globules (bright region) found in lunar agglutinates (top) are also present in simulated agglutinates (bottom).
The simulated agglutinates have properties like those unique to natural Lunar agglutinates, including highly irregular shapes, heterogeneous compositions, and very small iron metal droplets or globules trapped on and within glasses (see Figure 1). The essence of the method is to expose a raw Lunar-regolith simulant to heat causing simulant particles to partially melt. When the molten material cools, it forms the vesicular glass, which cements unmelted grains together, thereby forming simulated agglutinate particles. The metallic iron globules (see Figure 2) are trapped on and inside the glassy portions of the simulated agglutinate particles.

This work was done by Robert Gustafson and Brant White of Orbital Technologies Corp. and Marty Gustafson of PLANET LLC for Marshall Space FlightCenter.

For further information, contact Sammy Nabors, MSFC Commercialization Assistance Lead, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Refer to MFS-32577-1.