The key to success in colonizing nearby planets is in the small details. One of the most important is what materials are used to build the first houses. The answer to this question is StarCrete, also called “cosmic brick”.
Transportation of construction materials on earth to the red planet is practically impossible. The load on the spacecraft must be used to the maximum, so carrying cement in industrial quantities is not in the plans of any space agency.
A group of researchers from the University of Manchester made the conclusion possible. Materials that could be used to build houses on Mars are made of foreign dust potato starch and a pinch of salt.
In the tests, StarCrete showed a compressive strength of more than double than ordinary concrete, with a strength of 72 Megapascals (MPa). The strength was further increased when moon dust was used, reaching more than 91 MPa.
In an article published in the journal Open Engineering, the research team demonstrated that potato starch acts as a binder when mixed with Martian dust, simulated to produce a concrete-like material.
“Future space construction should be based on simple materials readily available to astronauts,” the University said in a statement. A line of research already explored by other institutions that saw the best base construction material in the Martian soil due to the availability of its large surface.
The team calculated that one bag (25 kg) of dehydrated potato chips (chips) contains enough starch to produce almost half a ton of StarCrete, which is equivalent to more than 213 bricks of material.
In comparison, to build a house 3 rooms you need on 7,500 blocks. In addition, they found that a common salt, magnesium chloride, which can be found in the Martian surface or in the tears of astronauts, significantly improves the strength of StarCrete.
StarCrete, also called “cosmic concrete”.
This formula exceeds the premix, where they were used blood and urine in astronauts as an adhesive. Although the resulting material had a compressive strength of about 40 MPa, better than normal concrete, the process had the disadvantage of regularly requiring bleeding.
“Since we produce starch as food for astronauts, it made sense to see it as a binding agent rather than human blood,” said research participant Dr. Aled Roberts.
“In addition, astronauts probably do not want to live in houses made of crusts and urine,” reasons Aled Roberts, a researcher at the Future Biomanufacturing Research Hub at the University of Manchester and principal investigator of this project.
The next steps in this project is to move StarCrete from the laboratory to the application. Dr. Roberts and his team recently created a new company, DeakinBio, which is exploring ways to improve StarCrete so that it can also be used in a terrestrial environment.
Also, StarCrete, if implemented on our planet, could offer an alternative more ecological. Cement and concrete account for about 8% of the world’s CO2 emissions, since the process of manufacturing them requires very high temperatures and large amounts of energy.
Conversely, StarCrete can be made in a normal oven or microwave at normal “home-cooked” temperatures, thus offering reduced production energy costs.