How about using dust from Moon or Mars to create everything from small tools to large buildings? Well, this is possible using new 3D-printing technique developed by scientists. This advance may one day allow human beings to create colonies on extra-terrestrial bodies having limited surrounding resources.
Researchers belonging to the Northwestern University in the US have explained how structures may be 3D-print with NASA-approved simulants of Martian and lunar dust. Researchers from the Northwestern University in the US have demonstrated the ability to 3D-print structures with simulants of Martian and lunar dust.
An extension of the “3D-painting process”, which was previously employed to print hyperelastic “bone”, graphene and carbon nanotubes, and metals and alloys, has been used for this research.
“For places like other planets and moons, where resources are limited, people would need to use what is available on that planet in order to live,” said Ramille Shah, assistant professor at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering.
“Our 3D paints really open up the ability to print different functional or structural objects to make habitats beyond Earth,” Shah said.
The dust simulants from Mars and Moon that were used by researchers have similar compositions, particle shapes and sizes to the dusts found on lunar and Martian surfaces.
The lunar and Martian 3D paints were created by the researchers using the respective dusts, a series of simple solvents, and biopolymer.
They then 3D printed them using a simple extrusion process. The resulting structures are over 90 per cent dust by weight.
The resulting 3D-painted material is flexible, elastic and tough – similar to rubber – despite being made of rigid micro-rocks.
This is the first example of rubber-like or soft materials resulting from lunar and Martian simulant materials. If desired, the material can be cut, rolled, folded, and otherwise shaped after being 3D painted.“We even 3D-printed interlocking bricks, similar to Legos, that can be used as building blocks,” Shah said.
Researchers are working on optimising ways to fire these 3D-painted structures in a furnace, which is an optional process that can transform the soft, rubbery objects into hard, ceramic-like structures.
In the context of the broader 3D-painting technology, this work highlights the potential to use a single 3D printer on another planet to create structures from all kinds of materials, researchers said.
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(With inputs from PTI)