Researchers at the Nuclear Futures Institute at Bangor University in the UK have developed miniature nuclear fuel cells, each about the size of a poppy seed, capable of powering NASA’s upcoming Artemis lunar base, set to commence operations around 2030. These tiny power sources, collectively known as “Trisofuel,” are engineered to operate with a micro nuclear generator, roughly the size of a small car, designed by Rolls Royce. The BBC reports that comprehensive testing of this innovative fuel is scheduled to commence within the next few months, with potentially far-reaching applications beyond lunar exploration.

The momentum is steadily growing toward establishing a permanent human presence on the moon, with a probable location near its south pole, where scientists anticipate finding water-based ice to support habitation. NASA’s ongoing Artemis project has been making strides toward its envisioned base construction by the end of this decade, culminating in its first successful mission in November 2022. Last month, India achieved a historic milestone by becoming the fourth nation to land a probe on the moon through its Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft, marking the first lunar landing at the southern pole.

Given its compact size and considerable power output, Trisofuel could prove indispensable to the success of lunar bases. Moreover, its portability opens up the possibility of adapting this new nuclear fuel cell for various scenarios, both on Earth and in the cosmos. Phylis Makurunje, a researcher involved in Trisofuel testing, explained that these diminutive fuel pellets could power rockets destined for Mars. She emphasized that Trisofuel’s high thrust is crucial for enabling rockets to reach distant planets, hinting at the potential for significantly reducing the duration of a Mars voyage—from an estimated nine months to a mere four-to-six months.

Bangor University professor Simon Middleburgh underscored the importance of nuclear power in space travel, noting its reliability and longevity even in the harsh conditions of launch and long-duration missions. At a more localized level, researchers envision deploying micro generators fueled by Trisofuel to disaster-stricken areas with compromised electrical grids, offering a dependable source of power.

While the development of a robust and powerful fuel source is a significant achievement, it is just one piece of the puzzle. Researchers are actively exploring construction options for proposed lunar bases, including the possibility of using lunar regolith to reinforce 3D-printed bricks, ultimately contributing to the creation of durable base structures.

By Impact Lab