Affordable housing in outer space: Scientists develop cosmic concrete from space dust and astronaut blood

Affordable housing in outer space: Scientists develop cosmic concrete from space dust and astronaut blood
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 today 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 utilise resources they can obtain on-site for construction and shelter. This is known as in-situ resource utilisation (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 today 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.

Materials provided by University of Manchester . Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

University of Manchester. "Affordable housing in outer space: Scientists develop cosmic concrete from space dust and astronaut blood." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 September 2021. .

University of Manchester. "Affordable housing in outer space: Scientists develop cosmic concrete from space dust and astronaut blood." ScienceDaily. (accessed September 13, 2021).



June 20, 2018 — A storm of tiny dust particles has engulfed much of Mars over the last two weeks and prompted NASA s Opportunity rover to suspend science operations. But across the planet, NASA s Curiosity ...

Apr. 23, 2018 — A new greener, stronger and more durable concrete that is made using the wonder-material graphene could revolutionise the construction ...

Feb. 27, 2018 — Selecting the perfect landing site will be essential for the successful establishment of the first Mars colony. Growing food crops will be one of the key tasks for the astronauts. Scientists have ...

Sep. 18, 2017 — Swirling columns of sand and dust, known as dust devils, are a feature of desert areas on Mars and on Earth. Now, a study of terrestrial dust devils has shown that around two thirds of the fine ...
News Topics :
Similar Articles :
Scientists at the University of Manchester have come up with a macabre new way to turn Martian soil into a stronger material for the construction of future colonies on the...
Bloomberg More than half a century after Neil Armstrong took mankind’s giant leap on the moon, another space race is heating up. This time, the promising new frontier for...
Of course, there is no weather in our sense of the word in space nevertheless, soil can also weather in the vacuum of space if it is constantly bombarded...
A spacesuit is more like a miniature spacecraft you wear around your body than an item of clothing. It’s pressurized, it’s decked out with life support systems, and it’s likely...
On Earth, dust particles are viewed mainly in terms of their physical effects, like erosion. But, in exotic locales from Mars to Venus to Jupiter s icy moon Europa, electrical...