EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The University of Texas at El Paso has joined a NASA led 3D-printing project. The project aims to manufacture rechargeable batteries using lunar and martian regolith, which is the top layer of materials that covers the surface of the moon and Mars, according to UTEP.

UTEP received a grant of $615,000, part of a $2.5 million project led by NASA. The long-term goal of the project is to maximize the sustainability of astronauts’ future lunar and martian missions by reducing payload weight and dead volume.

A journal from the American Chemical Society, published an article titled “What Would Battery Manufacturing on the Moon and Mars Look Like?”, detailing the progress UTEP and NASA researchers have already made on this project.

“This project with NASA is an opportunity to demonstrate UTEP’s expertise in both energy storage and 3D printing,” said Alexis Maurel, Ph.D., French Fulbright scholar in the UTEP department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.

The published article focuses on two types of 3D printing processes, material extrusion (ME) and vat photopolymerization (VPP), to produce shape-conformable batteries on the Moon and Mars.

Another potential outcome of the development of shape-conformable batteries is that they can be used on Earth, according to UTEP.  

“UTEP’s reputation in 3D printing, material science and facilities, were important factors in convincing our NASA partners to pursue this potentially transformative research.” said Eric MacDonald, Ph.D., professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and associate dean in the UTEP College of Engineering.