Few places in our solar system have captured the collective imagination of society quite like Mars. Thoughts conjured include imagery of glass domes encapsulating skyscrapers and vast fields of solar arrays extending into the expanse—a truly futuristic landscape. However, when humans first arrive, the sight will be quite the opposite. Aside from a few rovers, the surface is desolate of earthly equipment or engineered-structures, anything astronauts will need must be transported or created on site. Mars offers substantial quantities of sand (or regolith) for construction, though it lacks in other typical building materials. Fortunately, an active geochemical sulfur cycle exists, providing an abundance of sulfur compounds on and near the surface. While not typical in modern industry, sulfur concrete was explored on Earth in limited applications. A study of Martian regolith sulfur concrete (Marscrete) has confirmed its use as a structural material, and even indicated significantly greater strengths than its traditional Earth-based counterpart. Harnessing the ability to efficiently translate disruptive 3D-printing technology to the world of construction remains an ongoing challenge. Martian fabrication will almost certainly require such automation, though—and thus, it must be addressed. While a feat on its own, confronting Martian material sourcing challenges may in fact propel opportunities for 3D-printing in Earth construction.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Materials Science(all)