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First Settlement on Mars Could Be Built From Simulated Martian-like Soil Turned Into Bricks

May 01, 2017 10:46 AM EDT

There's a new study looking into the possibility of using simulated Martian-like soil pressed into bricks. Reports say that creating these Martian bricks need no other ingredients to bind it together, making it a viable option in building the first structures on the red planet.

Using simulated Mars-like soil for the study means there is a big chance that the actual soil on Mars could be molded and pressed into bricks to create a Mars settlement. Building habitats on the red planet are of utmost importance in order to make a successful colony and conduct scientific missions on Mars.

"In this work, we demonstrate that Martian soil simulant Mars-1a can be directly compressed at ambient into a strong solid without additives, highlighting a possible aspect of complete Martian in-situ resource utilization," authors Brian J. Chow, Tzehan Chen, Ying Zhong and Yu Qiao collectively said in the paper called "Direct Formation of Structural Components Using a Martian Soil Simulant" published in the journal Nature.

To build bricks for the first settlement, a high-pressure hammer to bind together the materials into a simulated martian soil is required. The materials are composed of various rocks from Earth that have relatively similar chemical characteristics to the dirt found on Mars.

The engineers discovered this capability while trying to lessen the polymer content in the mixture to serve as an adhesive, according to a report. They reached a point where no polymer is needed to bind the bricks together.

Typical bricks need to be mixed with some type of adhesive to bind materials together. But the materials found in simulated Martian-like soil possess their own binder or adhesive that allows the mixed ingredients to harden and bind together to form a brick.

"It gives the soil strength when it's compacted," Yu Qiao, a structural engineer at the University of California and lead researcher of the study, said in a statement.

The only concern now is that no matter how similar the simulated Martian-like soil is, it is still not the actual Martian soil or Martian regolith. There might be some drastic characteristics found in the Martian soil that the engineers may not know about. However, they remain hopeful, because if the calculations turn out to be correct, it will be good news for the future Martian colony and structures.

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