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The houses we create on Mars and the Moon can become… a little less hygienic than the ones we live on on Earth.
A series of new experiments have led to the successful fabrication of concrete that could one day be used in our alien lands, using a combination of simulated Martian soil. or Moon, a protein found in human blood and a compound found in human urine, sweat, and tears.
Biosynthetics from Mars and the Moon
These biosynthetic materials are even harder than regular concrete, and would be suitable for crafting alien buildings – if you can ask volunteer astronauts… to donate blood. However, this proves that building materials can be found in unexpected places.
It’s not a new idea – animal blood was used to bind mortar in the Middle Ages – but it is not the solution one might expect to find in the Space Age. New or not, it could help solve a major problem with establishing extraterrestrial colonies, which is cost.
“Scientists have been trying to develop possible technologies to produce concrete-like materials on the surface of Mars, but we keep thinking that the answer may lie within ourselves.”, said materials engineer Aled Roberts of the University of Manchester.
When we finally establish extraterrestrial human settlements, we’ll have to get a little creative. After all, every kilogram of payload on a rocket counts.
According to the latest data, it would cost at least $1,500 per kilogram to go in a rocket launch event. A 2017 report found that the cost of transporting a brick to Mars could be as high as $2 million.
So if we could build buildings from existing materials, that would be a huge burden offload – literally.
Experiments conducted using regolith simulations for the Moon and Mars (which are the top layers of dirt and debris on the surface of these places), suggest that these regolith materials could be the object. whether construction is feasible. But you still need to stick them together, and that’s where the human body can “contribute”.
Last year, an international team of scientists discovered that a compound found in human urine, tears and sweat called urea helps to plasticize concrete, making it less brittle and more flexible. this ultimately creates a stiffer material that can better withstand mechanical stresses. Roberts and his team took this one step further.
Their material, called AstroCrete, uses a protein called albumin, found in human plasma, to bind concrete together. Using a simple fabrication technique, the team used human serum albumin to create extraterrestrial regolith biocompounds.
AstroCrete Mars gets 3D
These materials have compressive strengths as high as 25 megapascals, comparable to the 20 to 32 megapascals found in conventional concrete on Earth. Adding urea makes the material even more dramatic, increasing AstroCrete’s compressive strength to 39.7 megapascals.
Synthetic spider silk and bovine serum albumin, both of which may be on Mars at some point, have also been tested and may also work. But the initial supply of blood protein will be harvested from astronauts, according to the team’s paper.
The researchers wrote: “In essence, human serum albumin produced directly by astronauts could be semi-continuously extracted and combined with lunar or Martian regoliths.”
Over a two-year period, six people were able to donate enough albumin to make 500 kg of AstroCrete. The researchers’ calculations show that each crew member’s contribution would provide enough building materials to expand that person’s habitat.
But more in-depth research is needed. We do not know the long-term health effects of continuous plasma donation in environments of low gravity and high radiation. We also don’t know how much plasma can be taken from a person sustainably and how that might affect fatigue levels.
However, that may only be a short-term solution. Once the establishment is established, donations may no longer be required.
The researchers wrote: “We believe that albumin in human serum could play an important role in a new colony on Mars, but will eventually be superseded by multipurpose bioreactors or other technologies as They are more developed.”.
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