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Microwave sintering - what's the big deal?

13 Jun 2016, 23:58 UTC
Microwave sintering - what's the big deal?
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It's hard to get through a post or paper on lunar exploration these days without hearing about microwave sintering. Let's take a look at what it is and why so many people are excited about it.In short, the unique properties of lunar soil make microwave heating very efficient. Strong concrete-like ceramic blocks can be made without water or other materials, just regolith. No material needs means very low mass shipped to the surface for building structures. This takes either a lot of power or a lot of patience.Details after the break.Let's start with the basics. If you already understand how and why microwaves work, skip ahead. Microwaves are electromagnetic radiation in the 1.6 to 30 GHz range, a bit above FM and TV broadcast frequencies and a bit below infrared. Many of us are familiar with the microwave oven, a device that heats water very efficiently. Similar equipment is used in radar and wireless power transmission. Microwaves heat dielectric materials (such as water). Molecules will try to line up with the electromagnetic field; since the field is rapidly changing direction the molecules end up spinning and colliding. This converts the microwave energy into rotational energy and then into heat. The ...

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