Extra-terrestrial dust cosmic concrete is twice as strong as regular concrete

Extra-terrestrial dust cosmic concrete is twice as strong as regular concrete ...

Researchers have discovered that mixing simulated Mars dust with ordinary potato starch creates a concrete-like material called StarCrete, which has a compressive strength of more than twice that of ordinary concrete in comparison to Moon dust. The strength increased even further when used Moon dust, attesting over 91 MPa.

Scientists in Manchester have developed a new material, called 'StarCrete,' that is made up of extra-terrestrial dust, potato starch, and a pinch of salt, and that might be used to construct houses on Mars.

Building space infrastructure is currently prohibitively costly and difficult to achieve. StarCrete is a good example of a future space construction technique that relies on simple materials that are readily available to astronauts.

When mixed with simulated Mars dust, the research team demonstrated that ordinary potato starch can act as a binder to make a concrete-like material. Starcrete made from moon dust was even stronger at over 91 MPa.

This improvement builds on previous work by the same team that utilized astronauts' blood and urine as a binding agent. While the result had the advantage of requiring blood on a regular basis, this option was considered less feasible in a hostile environment as space.

StarCrete does not require any of this and so it simplifies the mission and makes it more affordable and more feasible.

"Astronauts may not want to live in scabs and urine," says Dr. Aled Roberts, a research fellow at the Future Biomanufacturing Research Hub.

A sack of dehydrated potatoes (crisps) has enough starch to make roughly half a tonne of StarCrete, which is equivalent to roughly 7,500 bricks' worth of bricks, according to the research. Also, a common salt, magnesium chloride, obtained from the Martian surface or from astronaut's tears, significantly enhanced the strength of StarCrete.

The next steps of this project will be to translate StarCrete from the lab to an application. Dr. Roberts and his team have recently founded DeakinBio, a startup company that is researching ways to enhance StarCrete so that it may be used in a terrestrial environment.

StarCrete might be a greener alternative to traditional concrete, since they require extreme firing temperatures and energy. On the other hand, it can be made in an ordinary oven or microwave at normal 'home baking' temperatures, thus reducing labor costs.

Aled D. Roberts and Nigel S. Scrutton's "StarCrete: A starch-based biocomposite for off-world construction," published on the 13th of March 2023, in Open Engineering. DOI: 10.1515/eng-2022-0390

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