In the United Kingdom, researchers at University of Manchester have developed a concrete-like material from dehydrated potatoes, salt, and extraterrestrial dust that it says could enable construction of shelters and other infrastructure on Mars.
The material—which they have named StarCrete—is stronger than concrete used on Earth. The work builds on previous efforts to develop building materials for space exploration that used blood and urine from astronauts as binder. The latter two, according to designboom, were difficult to execute in hostile space environments (and also gross).
The work is led by Dr. Aled Roberts, a researcher at the Future Biomanufacturing Research Hub of The University of Manchester. “Since we will be producing starch as food for astronauts, it made sense to look at that as a binding agent rather than human blood,” Dr. Roberts says. “Also, current building technologies still need many years of development and require considerable energy and additional heavy processing equipment which all add cost and complexity to a mission. StarCrete doesn’t need any of this and so it simplifies the mission and makes it cheaper and more feasible. And anyway, astronauts probably don’t want to be living in houses made from scabs and urine!”
According to their research, one sack of dehydrated potato has enough starch for over 200 blocks of StarCrete.