Scientists have used simulated Mars soil to create a brick-like material that could be used to create structures on the planet without the use of adhesives. By using a high-pressure hammer mechanism to compact the soil, scientists are hoping the soil will make a Mars colony more feasible.
The soil was created using rocks from our own planet which have a similar makeup to the dust, dirt, and rocks found on Mars. The mixture also contains grains that are similar in both size and shape as grains found within Martian dirt. Using this material, scientists discovered that no adhesive was required to keep the bricks intact.
The resulting brick is stronger than steel-reinforced concrete used for buildings on planet Earth.
Most bricks and building materials made on Earth use a binder or adhesive to keep the material rigid, with the added chemicals being used like glue. However, the chemicals found within Martian soil work as a natural binder.
A structural engineer from the University of California, Yu Qiao, recently spoke to the Verge and explained how the natural ingredient found within Martial soil gives it strength when compacted.
The research, however, does not necessarily mean the science is perfect. Owing to the fact that scientists only have access to simulated Martian soil (the formula of which had been collected by the Mars Rover), it could be that Martian soil does not have the quite same effect.
If the soil does have the same properties as true Martian soil, however, it will mean that Mars missions will become easier to pull off. If humans are to live on Mars, it is important that they utilize as many natural resources as possible. Using the Martian soil will also made it easier to build.
However, if scientists are unable to use Martian rocks and soil to construct buildings, it means a system of delivering construction materials from Earth will have to be developed.
A Life Sciences expert from NASA named Jon Rask told the Verge that “It’s really easy to swing a hammer on Mars,” referencing the equipment used to compact the soil. He explained how any future Mars project could use an explorer with the mechanical hammer built in to create bricks that would later be used in construction.
Originally, this study was focused on lunar soil and ways it could be used to construct habitats on the moon. It was in 2010, however, that NASA began focusing on a future mission to Mars instead of the moon. Qiao told the Verge that when their focus changed, they initially thought to use the same technology to explore the possibility of creating Martian bricks.
This new discovery is truly exciting, and if the science holds up, we may see a Mars colony in the very near future.