Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Civil and Environmental Engineering

First Advisor

Mandar Dewoolkar


Scientists have been well aware of the complexity of Martian and lunar regoliths. There are vast unexplored areas on both, the Moon and Mars, as well as uncertainties in our understanding of the physicochemical properties of their regoliths. Lunar and Martian regoliths differ from terrestrial soils in that they appear granular, but are expected to contain some cohesion. As such, cohesion in regolith poses challenges for future space operations, more specifically for landing, settlement, and mobility purposes. The ability to induce prescribed levels of cohesion in regolith simulants and reliably measure it would allow scientists to evaluate space technology limitations under different operational scenarios on Earth prior to a mission. Therefore, the objectives of this research were to (1) develop methods to induce prescribed levels of cohesion in dry granular media, and (2) evaluate accessible and reliable testing methods to measure cohesion.

We developed and evaluated several methods to induce cohesion in two types of dry sand, F-75 silica sand and generic play sand. The methods to induce cohesion included play sand mixed with sugar-water, polymeric sand, and nanocellulose fibers, as well as F-75 sand mixed with polydimethylsiloxane, polyvinyl acetate, crystalline silica, agar, zero-valent iron, adhesive spray, and sand surface modification using a plasma gun. Each method was assessed for advantages and disadvantages, and laboratory specimens produced using the most promising methods were tested at different compositions and densities to measure cohesion. The laboratory methods used to measure the cohesion included direct shear test, simple direct shear test, and vertical cut test. The results from these tests were then compared to tensile strength tests, using a split box test. In addition, these tests were also performed on lunar simulants JSC-1A and GRC-3 at different densities. The direct shear apparatus was available, but the other three devices were fabricated as part of this work. Based on the research results, simple methods to potentially induce low levels of cohesion in dry granular media are suggested along with suitability of laboratory methods to measure the added cohesion.



Number of Pages

170 p.