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Science Crafts Concrete for Life on Mars

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

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As NASA sets its sites on developing the resources to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, some scientists are looking ahead to the next phase—the technologies astronauts will need to one day live and work on the red plant, including Martian Concrete.

Materials scientists from Northwestern University say the red planet’s architecture and infrastructure should be made of concrete that doesn’t require water to produce and is more than twice as strong as the Earth’s varieties, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology report on the research.

Northwestern’s 28-page study, “A Novel Material for In Situ Construction on Mars: Experiments and Numerical Simulations,” can be read here.

All about Sulfur

So how do you make Martian concrete? The scientists say that sulfur—a chemical abundant on Mars—will serve as a key ingredient.


Attention Earthlings: How will we make Mars feel like home? Northwestern University may have the answer. Image shows the higher regions of Mount Sharp, taken Sept. 9 by NASA's Curiosity rover, where the foreground ridge is teeming with hematite, the plain beyond is rich in clay minerals, and the rounded buttes are high in sulfate minerals.

Sulfur can be heated up to 240 degrees Celsius until it liquefies and can be mixed with Mars’ soil, which acts as an aggregate, and then cooled.

“The sulfur solidifies, binding the aggregate and creating concrete. Voila—Martian concrete,” MIT reports.

The researchers have made a sample of the concrete using simulated soil. They have also tested it, finding the “best mix” to be 50 percent sulfur and 50 percent soil with a maximum aggregate size of 1 mm. The sample also reached a compressive strength in excess of 50 MPa (megapascal), the report says.

“By comparison, residential building standards on Earth require concrete with a compressive strength of about 20 MPa,” according to MIT.

Another benefit, the scientists say, is that the Martian concrete is recyclable: it can be heated to melt the sulphur, enabling it to be reused again and again. Additionally, it is fast-setting, relatively easy to handle and far cheaper than transporting building materials from Earth.

Been Here Before?

MIT notes that the idea of using sulfur to make concrete is not new. In the 70s, engineers actually studied the use of sulfur concrete to build on the moon, but found out that in a vacuum, sulfur turns directly into gas.

Mars has an atmosphere, so sulfur concrete could be the go-to building material of choice…when the time comes, of course.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Asia Pacific; Colleges and Universities; Concrete; Concrete coatings and treatments; Design; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Infrastructure; Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management; Research and development; Roads/Highways; Substrates

Comment from Manuchehr Emamgholi Babadi, (1/12/2016, 6:38 AM)

Dear All I became happy to hearing about the sulfur concrete on Mars. So far as I know this is one of the best phenomenon for Infrastructure and bridges, particularly structures which needs to has to high fatigue and Anti-corrosion. I wish the best Manuchehr Emamgholi Babadi

Comment from Manuchehr Emamgholi Babadi, (10/13/2016, 11:41 PM)

To: Paint Square company from: Manuchehr Emamgholi Babadi Subject: color sulfur concrete The paint square firm (company) can add the various color paint in to the sulfur mix design for the red planet building if there is not problem of point of the NASA SCIENTISTS. M.E.Babadi from M.I.S- Khuzestan province of the Iran.

Comment from Manuchehr Emamgholi Babadi, (11/2/2016, 1:53 PM)

Dear All As yo know the H2S IS Evaporated when the sulfur heated at 140 Celsius,and it is very maligning for the human and animals, I can alteration this gas to drink water. What about the scientists to work with this gas? at the Mars? Thanks and Regards: DR.Manuchehr Emamgholi Babadi

Comment from Manuchehr Emamgholi Babadi, (11/2/2016, 2:06 PM)

Dear NASA SCIENTISTS in the Mars (Red Planet)PROJECT. Did you ACQUIRE THE Biotic or animates on the Mars? Warmest Regards; Manuchehr Emamgholi Babadi

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