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We could build shelters on Mars with insect polymers and Martian soil



Bio-inspired production

A team of researchers is suggesting that we could use one of the most common organic polymers on Earth to build shelters on Mars.

The material, called chitin, is produced and metabolized by most biological organisms and makes up most of the cell walls of fungi, insect exoskeletons and fish scales.

The team, led by Javier Fernandez of Singapore University of Technology and Design, attempted to make the material by combining a chitin fiber with mineral material that mimics Martian soil.

Mixing chitin

Using only basic tools and simple chemistry, the team were able to build a wrench and a scaled-down model of a Martian habitat, as detailed in the journal article. PLoS ONE this week.

“Working with simple chemistry suitable for early Martian settlements, we produced Martian biolite using chitosan derived from the cuticle of arthropods via treatment with sodium hydroxide, a component obtainable on Mars via electrolytic hydrolysis,”

; the team writes in their article.

Like concrete

In simpler terms: the resulting material “looks like concrete but much lighter,” Fernandez said CNN. “Very light rock.”

“We have a path to … the manufacturing of buildings and tools, from 3D printing to mold casting with just one material,” he added.

According to Fernandez, bio-inspired technologies could define “a new paradigm in manufacturing and allow you to do things that are unattainable by synthetic counterparts,” according to a statement.

He argues that these technologies “are critical not only to our sustainability on Earth, but also to one of humanity’s next greatest achievements: our transformation into an interplanetary species.”

READ MORE: This is how we should build on Mars, scientists say[[[[CNN]

More on shelters on Mars: These 3D printed Mars habitats just won a NASA award


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