Engineers Find A Way To Create Bricks From Martian Soil

We’re a step closer to that whole “build a colony on Mars” dream.


Those who plan to colonize mars might just be able to turn the planet’s red soil into solid bricks without needing an oven or any additional ingredients, just pressure the equivalent of a hammer blow to make it compact.

Proposals to use Mars’ soil to create buildings and habitats aren’t new, but this is the first one that uses the bare minimum materials required to do so, since, well, previous plans involved nuclear-powered brick kilns and complex polymer binding chemical processes and such.

Source: Jacobs School of Engineering, UC San Diego

The discovery of the method to make bricks themselves were an accident, as their initial plan was to cut down the polymers needed to make Martian soil into solid bricks, and ended up finding out that literally none were needed at all. To do this, all they had to do was to enclose the soil in a flexible container, which in this case was a rubber tube, and then simply compact the soil with a strong enough pressure. The amount of pressure needed for a small sample is around the equivalent of a 10-pound hammer smashing it from a height of 1 meter, said Yu Qiao, professor of structural engineering at University of California San Diego and the study’s lead author.

Their researcher’s test process produced small round soil pellets around an inch tall and can be cut into the shape of a brick. The engineers behind it believe that Iron Oxide, the compound that gives the soil its rusty hue, acts as the binding agent for the bricks. They used various scanning tools and had found that the tiny iron particles coat the soil’s bigger basalt particles. These iron particles have clean, flat facets that can easily bind to each other under pressure, hence forcing a solid brick.

Source: Jacobs School of Engineering, UC San Diego

They’re also pretty strong; when tested, the researchers had found that even without rebar, the bricks are stronger than steel-reinforced concrete. They also stated that their technique is compatible with additive manufacturing. Astronauts can build a structure by putting down a layer of soil, compacting it, then putting down another layer of soil, then compacting that, and so on.

Now the next step is to make the bricks larger.

Article Sources:

UCSD

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Engineers Find A Way To Create Bricks From Martian Soil

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