A Martian-soil simulant - a compound that is similar in chemical composition to Martian soil - can be compressed into a solid that may hold potential as a building material according to a study in Scientific Reports this week.
Permanent human settlement on Mars would require infrastructure to sustain life, and a steady supply of structural materials would be required. However, questions arise over whether such materials can be made solely through the use of in-situ resources and if energy-intensive processes during production, such as thermal treatment, can be avoided.
Yu Qiao and colleagues demonstrate that upon high-pressure compression, Mars-1a particles - a Martian-soil simulant - form a solid at ambient temperature that is similar to dense rock, with strengths exceeding that of steel-reinforced concrete. The authors found that nanoparticulate iron oxide, commonly detected in Martian soil, acts as a bonding agent during this process. The authors suggest that the self-cohesive soils seen on Mars may be further compressed into high-strength structural materials and that this process may be compatible with additive manufacturing, in which material is added to structures incrementally.