In order to safely send astronauts to Mars and build a base for them to live in, NASA held a 3D printing Mars habitat design competition. One of the participating teams in this competition recently, a research team led by Gianluca Cusatis, associate professor at Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, came up with a hypothetical plan. They are trying to build these bases on Mars using sulfur concrete made from materials.
"Ordinary sulfur concrete has fine aggregate added to it, and the sulfur in our Martian sulfur concrete will react with minerals in the Martian soil," Cusatis said. Researchers are also trying to improve the fire resistance of this sulfur concrete To ensure that it can be used safely on Mars.
Sulfur concrete is a thermoplastic material, and its construction method is entirely different from that of ordinary concrete. Sulfur is the cementing material of sulfur concrete, with a melting point of 112.8°C. It mainly uses a heated pouring molding process. In addition, due to the high price of sulfur, it has not been widely used.
In 2021, researchers pointed out that since building materials cannot be transported from the Earth to Mars, humans might as well use local materials to produce concrete-like materials directly on the surface of Mars.
It would cost more than £1 million to transport a brick to Mars, making future Martian settlements prohibitively expensive. On September 13, local time, scientists from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom published an article in the magazine "Materials-Biology Today" saying that they have designed a solution that can reduce the cost of Mars immigration - combining space dust, astronauts' blood, and sweat Combined with tears to create materials. This concrete-like material is ideal for construction in extraterrestrial environments.
When it comes to Mars missions, people often focus on the loose rocks and Martian soil on Mars. In fact, astronauts themselves are also a need for more resources. Researchers have confirmed that human serum albumin can be used as a binder to simulate lunar or Martian dust to create a new concrete-like material called AstroCrete. The compressive strength of AstroCrete is as high as 25MPa, which is roughly equivalent to the compressive strength of ordinary concrete (20~32MPa). The researchers studied the potential bonding mechanism and confirmed that after the blood protein is denatured, it forms an interactive "beta sheet" extended structure with the simulated soil, which tightly binds the entire material together.
Subsequently, researchers discovered that mixing urea into AstroCrete can increase the compressive strength to about 40MPa, far exceeding that of ordinary concrete. Urea is a biological waste product excreted by humans through urine, sweat, and tears.
Dr. Aled Roberts, a researcher at the University of Manchester, said the new technology has clear advantages compared with other lunar/martian construction technologies. He said: "Scientists have been working hard to develop feasible technologies to produce concrete-like materials on the surface of Mars. Finally, we found that the answer lies in the human body." Based on the calculation results, six astronauts performed a two-year mission on the surface of Mars. During the mission, more than 500 kilograms of high-strength AstroCrete can be produced. With proper planning, each successive mission could double the number of available Martian housing.
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