In the UK, researchers at the University of Manchester have found that a protein in human blood and an acid in human urine can bind to Mars dust to create a material strong enough to build infrastructure.
Dubbed AstroCrete, the macabre material was first conceived when Aled Roberts and his team were working to make glue from synthetic spider silk. “We accidentally found that a protein from blood was really good at sticking glass together,” he tells SYFY WIRE. “When we realized that moon and Mars dust are also mostly silica, so that’s how we started the investigation. We added urea later on after we figured out the bonding mechanism, and figured urea could enhance the mechanism – which it did.”
AstroCrete showed higher compression power than its non-vampiric cousin, concrete, and adding urea made the material 300% stronger.
Given the astronomical cost of sending materials into space, some of the research supporting future colonization has been similarly creative. “Hair could possibly be incorporated into materials as a reinforcing agent, for example,” Roberts adds. “Collagen could be turned into a bio-plastic or glue, perhaps. In any case, we’ll need to be extremely resourceful and try to make the most out of everything.”
The team’s findings were reported in a recent issue of Materials Today Bio.