When combined with other materials, it makes surprisingly strong bricks.
For all the glitzy depictions of future Mars civilizations, there’s one glaring problem:
How do we even begin to build a city on Mars?
Transporting a single brick from Earth to Mars is estimated to cost as much as 2 million dollars.
Imagine what it’d cost to build a research station — or just a modest space to sleep.
But they likely won’t make the same bricks, stones, or concrete we build with on Earth.
Roberts A., et. al. / Materials Today Bio
A team of researchers from the University of Manchester has an unorthodox solution: Creating a concrete-like material out of dust and human biomaterials.
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“Human biomaterials” in this case means extracting proteins from human blood plasma, and compounds from urine, tears, and sweat.
When mixed with Martian dust, the result is a surprisingly strong, earth-brown material that can be molded and even 3D printed into shapes.
The recipe is outlined in a September 10 report in the journal Materials Today Bio.
For example, this 3D printed structure could sustain up to 60 kilograms of weight on Earth — 162 kg on Mars.
Aled Roberts, the study’s lead author, tells Inverse that this technique doesn’t require any heavy equipment — freeing astronauts up to take other critical items on their journeys to Mars.
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But extracting biofluids like blood is no easy feat — you need a safe, controlled environment.
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“The main potential sanitary issue I foresee is the risk of infections from removing blood from the body, taking the plasma, and putting the blood cells back in the body.”
But Roberts believes this technique will help grow human colonies on Mars by giving them a way to expand their habitat.
His team calculates that a single human on Mars could potentially make enough building material from their bodily waste to support another person after 6 years.
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“This could then be repeated, potentially doubling the size of the colony every 72 months in a relatively efficient way.”
So if you do make it to Mars one day, you might be expected to help construct buildings from your own blood, sweat, and tears — literally.