Building infrastructure in space is currently very expensive and difficult to achieve. This construction needs to rely on simple materials that astronauts can easily obtain, StarCrete offers a possible solution.
The scientists behind this invention used simulated Martian soil mixed with potato starch and a pinch of salt to create a material that is twice as durable as regular concrete. They are perfectly suited for construction in extraterrestrial environments.
In a study published in the journal Open Engineeringthe team demonstrated that common potato starch can act as a binder when mixed with simulated Martian dust to create a concrete-like material.
When tested, StarCrete had a compressive strength of 72 Megapascals (MPa), more than twice as strong as the 32 MPa found in conventional concrete. Starcret made from lunar dust is even more powerful at over 91 MPa.
The team calculates that a 25kg bag of dried potatoes contains enough starch to produce nearly half a ton of StarCrete, equivalent to more than 213 bricks.
For comparison, a 3-bedroom house needs about 7,500 bricks to build. In addition, they discovered that a common salt, magnesium chloride, which can be obtained from the Martian surface or from the tears of astronauts, significantly improved StarCrete’s power.
The next phases of this project are to bring StarCrete from the lab to the application.
Dr. Roberts and his team recently founded a new company, DeakinBio. They are looking to improve StarCrete so that it can also be used in environments on Earth.
If used on earth, StarCrete could provide a greener alternative to traditional concrete.