One of the problems of living and working on the moon is the fact that while the day lasts for two weeks on the Lunar Surface night lasts just as long, which complicates the problem if providing a lunar base with power using solar panels. While some places near the lunar south pole are exposed to sunlight virtually all the time, scientists are looking for alternative methods of energy production.

The day-night cycle on the moon has already proven to be a problem for robotic lunar exploration. The Chinese Chang’e 3 and Yutu rover were damaged by the first lunar night they endured on the lunar surface, for example, limiting the amount of science they returned subsequently.

Leaving aside nuclear power, which is a long-term solution with its own set of technical problems, some researchers at the European Space Agency have hit upon a unique for of power storage using a substance that has been a nuisance for past lunar explorers, moon dust.

Modern solar power systems get around the fact that solar does not work at night or during inclement weather by using energy storage systems, usually based on batteries. The idea is that excess solar power can be stored in batteries, which then releases electricity when the sun is not available.

The European scientists have noticed that moon dust, which layers much of the lunar surface, absorbs heat, which can go up to 100 degrees C at the moon’s equator, during the day and then releases it at night. The idea is to use the moon dust to store heat during the Lunar Day and then release it at night to generate electricity.

The research into the moon dust heat storage device is in the early stages, with simulations being conducted.

Eventually, scientists hope to build a small prototype to test the practicality of such a system. Further down the line, a solar power system attached to a moon dust heat storage device might be tested on the lunar surface. If everything goes well, moon dust could become part of the solution for providing power for future lunar explorers.

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