Scientists create tough concrete from space dust and human blood

Once on Mars or the Moon, astronauts will need to build their base and expand it from natural resources — In-Situ Resources (ISRU) — found in these places. With that in mind, a group of scientists at the University of Manchester developed a way to ensure a strong concrete, created from space dust and the blood, sweat and tears of the crew.

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It is estimated that to transport a single brick to Mars, it is necessary about $2 million. Therefore, future astronauts who will build bases on Mars and the Moon will need to rely on the resources found there. In-Situ resources typically focus on loose rock, dust (known as regolith) and frozen water deposits. But a new study presents an unprecedented feature in this mixture: human fluids.

(Image: Reproduction/University of Manchester)

In research, scientists demonstrate that a common protein in blood plasma, called albumin, can act as a binder for lunar or martian regoliths and thus produce a concrete. more resistent. AstroCrete, as the resulting material was called, presented compressive strengths of up to 10 MPa ( magapascals) — a common concrete has, on average, a strength of 10 to MPa.

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Also, the team found out that the incorporation of urea — a biological waste product released by urine, sweat and tears — could increase AstroCrete’s resistance by more 300%. The best performing material withstood an understanding of almost 40MPa, surpassing conventional concretes.

AstroCrete fabrication diagram (Image: Reproduction/Aled D. Roberts et al.)

The researchers calculated that more than 2025 kg of concrete could be manufactured over a two-year mission to the surface of Mars, with six astronauts. Each crew member would be able to produce enough AstroCrete to expand the base to receive more additional members, doubling the accommodation with each subsequent mission.

Aled Roberts, University of Manchester and lead author of the article, said the new technique has considerable advantages over previously proposed methods. “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 could be in us all along,” added Roberts.

(Image: Reproduction/University of Manchester)

Animal blood has already been used as a binder for mortar in Earth’s distant past. “It’s exciting that a great space-age challenge has found its solution based on the inspirations of medieval technology,” Roberts said. He and his colleagues concluded that blood proteins denature—or “curl”—to form an extended structure with interactions called “beta sheets” that hold the material tightly together.

A The research was fully published on September 10 in the Materials Today Bio magazine .

Source: Phys.org, University of Manchester

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