Scientists have ‘cooked up’ a revolutionary new material dubbed “StarCrete” that may be used, some day, in building homes on Mars.
The futuristic ‘recipe’, which consists of extra-terrestrial dust, potato starch, and a pinch of salt, is twice as strong as concrete and is revolutionary in that it contains affordable ingredients.
Future space construction will need to rely on simple materials that are affordable – and easily available – to astronauts.
The scientists behind the invention used simulated Martian soil mixed with the two common kitchen staples to create the material, which is perfectly suited for construction work in extra-terrestrial environments.
When tested, StarCrete had a compressive strength of 72 Megapascals (MPa), which is over twice as strong as the 32MPa seen in ordinary concrete.
The scientists, whose work was published in the journal Open Engineering, had improved upon a previous recipe which called for astronauts’ blood and urine as binding agents.
That material had a compressive strength of around 40 MPa, which is better than normal concrete. The drawback, of course, was that the process would require a non-sustainable amount of blood on a regular basis.
Researchers chipped away at the experiment and hit upon potato starch.
“Since we will be producing starch as food for astronauts, it made sense to look at that as a binding agent rather than human blood … and anyway, astronauts probably don’t want to be living in houses made from scabs and urine!” Dr Aled Roberts, Research Fellow at the Future Biomanufacturing Research Hub, The University of Manchester and lead researcher for this project, said.
For those of you interested in cooking up your own StarCrete, you’ll need to start with a 25kg sack of dehydrated potatoes, which contains enough starch to produce almost a half a tonne of the space-age material. That’s over 213 bricks worth. For a three bedroom house, you’d need about 35 sacks, or about 7,500 bricks.
Common salt, or magnesium chloride, which can be easily found on the surface of Mars, significantly improved StarCrete’s strength.
Dr Roberts and his team have recently launched a start-up company, DeakinBio, which is exploring ways to improve StarCrete so that it could also be used in a terrestrial setting.
If used on earth, StarCrete could offer a greener alternative to traditional concrete.