Newswise – There is ongoing research around the world to use the moon as an advanced base for space exploration, and Korea is no exception to this effort. The Korean Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT, President Kim, Byung-suk) has successfully implemented an electrostatic environment that simulates the surface conditions of the Moon, not in space but on Earth. Researchers also evaluated its performance and effectiveness.

One of the greatest threats when conducting lunar missions is the electrostatically charged lunar surface. Due to its extremely thin atmosphere, the Moon is directly exposed to solar ultraviolet rays, X-rays, solar wind, Earth’s plasma, etc. Therefore, dust clouds on the Moon exhibit strong static electricity. The Moon’s electrostatic environment is positively charged during the day and negatively charged at night.

Since the moon has almost no atmosphere, dust can be easily blown away by even small impacts due to the low air resistance. Electrostatically charged regolith particles can cause serious damage to space exploration equipment if they stick to them. For example, when these particles adhere to PV cells, they affect the efficiency of electricity generation. During manned missions, they can damage spacesuits that protect astronauts or enter the airways, causing life-threatening consequences.

The KICT research team led by Dr. Shin, Hyusoung (along with lead researchers Chung, Taeil and Dr. Park, Seungsoo) developed a chamber to simulate electrically charged conditions. The goal is to create an electrostatic environment similar to the lunar surface.

The chamber developed by KICT contains UV lamps, electronic beams and plasma generators to charge the surfaces of test objects positively or negatively. In the future, this equipment can be used to electrostatically charge a replica of the lunar soil using ultraviolet radiation and electron beams. This will help determine how much material is stuck to rovers and anticipate potential problems. This technology goes beyond simply performing electrostatic charging to simulate the Moon’s electrically charged environment under various conditions, such as day or night and under the influence of Earth’s plasma.

The greatest success of this research lies in the ability of the developed equipment to quantitatively and independently measure the amount of photocurrent generated, which has the greatest influence on the charging of lunar dust during the lunar day. The error between the experimental measurement obtained in this research and the corresponding theoretical value was about 5%, which shows the reliability of the developed technology.

Therefore, KICT’s attempts have been successful not only in reproducing a lunar-like environment in which soil dust remains electrostatically charged, but also in developing an assessment technology for it. This research has laid the foundation for equipping a large Dirty Thermal Vacuum Chamber (DTVC) with the developed equipment to implement an electrostatically charged environment and further evaluate its performance.

Dr. Shin, who led this project, said: “Our research provides the opportunity to effectively integrate the full-scale DTVC developed by Korea for the first time in the world into lunar dust charging technology.” This solution will serve as a testbed for a range of technologies to to implement in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) on the Moon in the future and to address and respond to a number of potential technological challenges posed by electrically charged lunar dust.


This research was supported by the KICT Research Program (Project No. 20230081-001, Development of Environmental Simulators and Advanced Construction Technologies via TRL6 in Extreme Conditions), funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT. An article explaining the results of this research was published in the latest issue of Aerospacea renowned international magazine in the Space technology Field.

(IF: 2.6, JCR Quartile: Q1 in the ENGINEERING, AEROSPACE category).

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