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

PISCES Geology Tech Kyla Defore and Planetary Scientist Jeff Taylor were in a UH Mānoa lab 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 about their elemental composition including mineral and crystal content.

Their research is part of a PISCES project to determine the ideal chemical configuration of volcanic basalt needed to produce 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. Together with materials science intern Kye Harford, she has been busy analyzing various basalt samples. Once complete, the data will inform a comprehensive catalog of varying types of Hawaiian basalt found on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. The results will be published and shared at aerospace conferences nationwide in 2019.