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Compressing Martian Soil Makes It Stronger than Steel-Reinforced Concrete

ByAna AcevesNOVA NextNOVA Next

In 2033, NASA hopes to carry out a crewed mission to Mars. But they don’t want to stop there. Eventually, they want to build an outpost on the Red Planet.

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That’s no small feat. A true colony on Mars would require proper infrastructure to withstand the harsh living conditions, and shipping the necessary materials there could be costly. Now, researchers may have found a way to use Mars’ own soil to withstand the planet’s 60 mph winds.

Yu Qiao from the University of California San Diego and his colleagues enclosed a simulant of Martian soil named Mars-1a—previously used by other scientists to make brick—in a rubber tube and compressed it under intense pressure.

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MarsOutpost (1)
Bricks made from Martian soil could be used to construct the first human settlement on Mars. This is an artist's rendition of a Martian outpost.

The resulting rock was extremely dense and stronger than steel-reinforced concrete. If this could be used to build the first settlements, it could drastically reduce the cost since there would be no need for heat or chemicals.

The soil turned to rock because the nanoparticle iron oxide, common in Martian soil, acts as a bonding agent under pressure. Qiao will continue his work, using bigger samples. Here is Hannah Osborne reporting for Newsweek:

The scientists now plan to use the method to create larger bricks. Should further experiments prove successful, they say the technique could be used to build a structure on Mars by compacting a layer of soil then placing another layer on top and compacting that—and continuing this process until the structure is complete.

According to the authors of the study, “Permanent human settlement on Mars requires infrastructure to sustain habitats and life. A steady supply of structural materials is integral towards this effort.”

Photo credit: Mark Dowman / NASA

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