If you think the sand is irritating, wait until you hear the astronauts describe their experiences with moon dust. The substance is apparently easy to spread to the environment, causing it to spread everywhere: in costumes, in vehicles and elsewhere, it can end up being a problem. How will future astronauts, especially those stationed on the lunar surface for long periods of time, deal with this nuisance?
We still don’t know what the final solution to this problem will be, but researchers at the University of Colorado – Boulder have come up with a possible solution. Referred to as a ‘dust destroyer’, the team published a new study detailing the use of an electron beam to ‘zap’ lunar dust with low-energy and negatively charged particles.
The dust, which is officially called a regolith, reacts to the electron beam by bouncing away from the surface on which it rests, making the potential solution something like canned air used to blow up keyboard debris. In the future, astronauts may use these electron beams to “dust” the regolith of suits and other items.
The work was inspired by NASA’s continued efforts to return humans to the Moon in the long term, as well as reports on the regolith of astronauts who have been there. According to these astronauts, the regolith is “irritating”, difficult to clean with brushing, smelly and – the main problem – it is “sticky” due to its electrical charge.
According to the researchers, the type of “stickiness” that the regolith has is similar to the grip that a sock can have when freshly removed from the dryer. That is why eliminating lunar dust with negatively charged particles – a safe activity – causes them to disperse from the surface, while ordinary brushing does not work.
Although research is still needed and this may not be a final solution to the problem, the study reports success using this method with false lunar soil created by NASA used on a variety of surfaces such as glass.