The first Mars colony could be 3D-printed from the Red Planet’s dust

A new method was used for simulated Mars and moon dust to 3D print flexible, sturdy rubber-tools. The method can be used by Martian colonists to make their own tools, the use of local materials on the Red Planet.

(Amanda Morris)

A new technique, the first people on Mars 3D-print everything from tools to make the temporary accommodation of a tough rubber-like material — use only Martian dust.

The method can be the first man to set foot on the Red Planet printing of the tools and housing they need to survive without having to lug around all the supplies on board of their spaceship.

“For countries such as the other planets and moons, with limited resources, people would have to use what is available on the planet to live,” Ramille Shah, a materials scientist at Northwestern University in Illinois, said in a statement . “Our 3D paint really open up the ability to print the various functional or structural objects to create habitats outside the Earth.” [Sending Humans to Mars: 8 Steps to the Red Planet Colonization]

A trip to Mars would require a spacecraft large enough to allow a lot more fuel and supplies than past spacecraft could, but care packages from Mother Earth will not be enough for people to make it on an alien planet. Almost all schemes for the colonization of the Red Planet (or for the colonization of the moon) requires that at least a part of the supplies for the expeditions come from the local area.

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A step in the direction of that goal would be the development of a supertool that can be used to quickly manufacture of other desired instrument or object, the use of local resources. To that end, Shah and her colleagues wanted to see what could be made with some of the most common materials on Mars and the moon: dust. The researchers used simulated substance based on the real moon and Mars samples. The synthetic substance includes mixtures of aluminum oxide, silicon dioxide, iron oxide, and other compounds. The hard particles simulations of the lunar surface often have jagged, sharp edges, while Mars simulated dust is made from rounder, less irregular particles, according to the researchers.

The team developed a combination of process simulated moon and Mars-ingredient with solvents and a biopolymer to create this alien-based inks. The inks were then 3D printed in different forms using an extruder. In the end, the objects — which were composed of approximately 90 percent of dust were tough and flexible, and could withstand the rolling, cutting, and folding for the printing of almost any 3D-shape, the Shah of iran, and her colleagues reported online March 20 in the journal Scientific Reports .

“We have even 3D printed interlocking bricks, similar to Lego , which can be used as building blocks,” Shah said.

While the rubbery materials have their applications, as a next step, Shah and her colleague David Dunand, a materials scientist at Northwestern University, are now trying to figure out ways to heat these rubbery polymers, so that they harden, such as ceramics.

Originally published on Live Science.

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