In an effort to produce a more carbon-friendly concrete material, Texas A&M University has developed a 3D printing technology that not only has implications for construction here and now, but is thought to be one of the most viable ways to implement construction on Mars.
This is because the 3D printer uses the materials around it to manufacture the concrete variant.
“Historically, humans used to build with locally sourced materials, such as adobe, but the move to concrete has raised many environmental issues. Our thought was to turn the clock back and find a way to adapt materials from our own backyards as a potential replacement for concrete,” said project principal investigator Sarbajit Bajpayee at the American Chemical Society Fall 2020 Virtual Meeting & Expo.
The printer digs down into the clay layer of earth—literally beginning in one of the team’s backyard—and then uses a chemical additive to turn the clay into a more durable and harder substance. However, once that was tackled, they had to find a way to make the product more load-bearing, and they used a technique called “zippering” to prevent water absorption into the concrete product.
While this makes for intriguing prospects for building on Mars without having to send construction materials on the spaceship, there are more earth-based possibilities in the here and now. For starters, the team says that they will be using the technology to build “low-cost dignified habitats” in places where little housing exists.