When humans begin to colonize the moon and Mars, they will need to be able to make everything from small tools to large buildings using the limited surrounding resources.
The team of researchers from additive manufacturing laboratory at Northwestern University, USA, has suggested that first humans on Mars might be able to 3D print everything from tools to temporary housing out of a tough rubber-like material — using only Martian dust.
3D Printing Using Red Planet Dust
The researchers claim that almost all the schemes related to colonising Moon or Mars, requires at least some of the resources to come from the planet itself as it is hard to carry all the essentials in a spacecraft from Earth. One step closer to this goal would definitely be developing a tool that would quickly manufacture any other desired tool or object, using local resources. One of the most abundant materials on the Moon and Mars is Dust. So the scientists tried to develop something using it.
It would be just easier to colonise on the surface if these tools could be made and the supplies for the expeditions come readily available from the surface of the planet. Apparently, the researchers used simulated dusts based on real lunar and Martian samples. The synthetic dust contained mixtures of silicon dioxide, aluminum oxide, iron oxide and other compounds. The Martian simulated dust is made up of rounder, less irregular particles, according to the researchers, while the hard particles simulating the moon surface often have jagged, sharp edges.
How Is This Done?
Ramille Shah, a materials scientist at Northwestern University in Illinois, claimed that their 3D paints really open up the ability to print different functional or structural objects to make habitats beyond Earth. To develop the extra terrestrial inks, the team of researchers developed a process, which combined simulated lunar and Martian dust with solvents and a biopolymer. These inks, using an extruder were then 3D printed into different shapes.
These inks that were printed into different shapes composed of 90% dust. Shah and her colleagues explained that these structures were tough and flexible. They also added that these structures could withstand the rolling, cutting and folding needed to print almost any 3D shape. Shah apparently claimed that they even 3D-printed interlocking bricks, which were similar to Legos, that can be used as building blocks.
This could prove to be a life changing innovation in the space science field as it would help to enable colonisation on Moon or Mars. Because it is a human tendency to always look for more and move forward, Shah and his colleague David Dunand, a materials scientist at Northwestern University, are now trying to figure out ways to heat these rubbery polymers so they harden like ceramics, as a next step in this innovation. With space research moving forward in this pace, the future of colonising on other planets seems to be bright.