Converting Martian soil into concrete

Advancement may help build colonies

May 07, 2017 07:49 pm | Updated 07:50 pm IST - Washington

A new form of concrete made using Martian or lunar soil and animal proteins may allow future astronauts to build colonies on Mars and the Moon, according to Stanford and NASA scientists.

To establish settlements on the Moon or Mars, humans would need thousands of tonnes of concrete to survive. Both Mars and the Moon are bombarded constantly with both lethal radiation and micrometeorites that would quickly punch holes into any ordinary structure.

However, since it is nearly impossible to ship such quantities of cement from Earth to Mars, the best way forward would be to start making it in space.

Making Earth-style concrete requires tremendous amounts of heat and energy, which would be very short supply for first human outposts on Mars.

To solve that problem, researchers used animal protein to make a promising form of concrete that could solve problems on Mars as well as Earth.

Bovine blood protein

Living organisms use proteins to make things as tough as shells, bones and teeth, so the researchers including , David Loftus from NASA’s Ames Research Centre and Michael Lepech from Stanford University in the U.S. began working on a concrete bound together with a protein from bovine blood.

The protein is a fairly cheap by-product of slaughterhouses, and it is known to become very gluey when mixed with soil.

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