Established in 2020 Monday, September 20, 2021


Cosmic concrete developed from space dust and astronaut blood
3D-printed mars biocomposite. Image courtesy: The University of Manchester.



MANCHESTER.- Transporting a single brick to Mars can cost more than a million British pounds—making the future construction of a Martian colony seem prohibitively expensive. Scientists at The University of Manchester have now developed a way to potentially overcome this problem, by creating a concrete-like material made of extra-terrestrial dust along with the blood, sweat and tears of astronauts.

In their study, published in Materials Today Bio, a protein from human blood, combined with a compound from urine, sweat or tears, could glue together simulated moon or Mars soil to produce a material stronger than ordinary concrete, perfectly suited for construction work in extra-terrestrial environments.

The cost of transporting a single brick to Mars has been estimated at about US$2 million, meaning future Martian colonists cannot bring their building materials with them, but will have to utilize resources they can obtain on-site for construction and shelter. This is known as in-situ resource utilization (or ISRU) and typically focusses on the use of loose rock and Martian soil (known as regolith) and sparse water deposits. However, there is one overlooked resource that will, by definition, also be available on any crewed mission to the Red Planet: the crew themselves.

In an article published in the journal Materials Today Bio, scientists demonstrated that a common protein from blood plasma—human serum albumin—could act as a binder for simulated moon or Mars dust to produce a concrete-like material. The resulting novel material, termed AstroCrete, had compressive strengths as high as 25 MPa (Megapascals), about the same as the 20–32 MPa seen in ordinary concrete.

However, the scientists found that incorporating urea—which is a biological waste product that the body produces and excretes through urine, sweat and tears—could further increase the compressive strength by over 300%, with the best performing material having a compressive strength of almost 40 MPa, substantially stronger than ordinary concrete.




Dr. Aled Roberts, from The University of Manchester, who worked on the project, said that the new technique holds considerable advantages over many other proposed construction techniques on the moon and Mars.

"Scientists have been trying to develop viable technologies to produce concrete-like materials on the surface of Mars, but we never stopped to think that the answer might be inside us all along," he said.

The scientists calculate that over 500 kg of high-strength AstroCrete could be produced over the course of a two-year mission on the surface of Mars by a crew of six astronauts. If used as a mortar for sandbags or heat-fused regolith bricks, each crew member could produce enough AstroCrete to expand the habitat to support an additional crew member, doubling the housing available with each successive mission.

Animal blood was historically used as a binder for mortar. "It is exciting that a major challenge of the space age may have found its solution based on inspirations from medieval technology," said Dr. Roberts.

The scientists investigated the underlying bonding mechanism and found that the blood proteins denature, or "curdle," to form an extended structure with interactions known as "beta sheets" that tightly holds the material together.

"The concept is literally blood-curdling," Dr. Roberts explained.







Today's News

September 14, 2021

New immunotherapy method turns activated specifically in tumor

Cosmic concrete developed from space dust and astronaut blood

Engineers grow pancreatic "organoids" that mimic the real thing

Study provides evidence for 'new physics'

No need for a vaccine third jab booster: study

Magnetism generated in 2D organic material by star-like arrangement of molecules

What was really the secret behind Van Gogh's success?

New hope for antibody to treat muscular dystrophy

Doctors identify an eye cancer culprit

Study provides basis to evaluate food subsectors' emissions of three greenhouse gases

Cuban scientists reject 'Havana Syndrome' claims

Observation of quasi-equilibrium phase coexistence in supercritical fluids

No bull! Climate researchers 'potty train' peeing cows

How long do black carbon particles linger in the atmosphere?

Docking peptides, slow to lock, open possible path to treat Alzheimer's

White blood cells that can help destroy malignant tumors

Researchers design sensors to rapidly detect plant hormones

How genetic islands form among marine molluscs



 


Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez



Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the ResearchNews newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful