Photo: PISCES Geology Tech Kyla Defore prepares Hawaiian basalt samples for X-ray analysis.

That’s no ordinary orange suitcase pictured above. It has superpowers. 

47579087_709114309474029_567899933294723072_n (2)PISCES Geology Tech Kyla Defore and Planetary Scientist Jeff Taylor were in a lab at UH Manoa last month zapping volcanic rocks with an X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) machine. The XRD—also called a diffractometer—beams radiation at tiny granules of Hawaiian basalt and returns comprehensive data to a computer about their elemental composition: namely, mineral and crystal content.

The work is part of an Applied Research project at PISCES that will determine the ideal composition of volcanic rock needed for consistent results in sintering and additive manufacturing—processes that can produce novel (and sustainable) building materials for use on Earth, and on the Moon and Mars where similar resources are available.

Kyla returned to PISCES headquarters with the XRD in mid-December where she and PISCES intern Kye Harford have been busy analyzing various basalt samples using the device. Once completed, the data will compose a comprehensive catalog of various types of Hawaiian basalt found on the Big Island of Hawaii. The results will also be published and shared at aerospace conferences in 2019.