Reza Hedayati, Victoria Stulova

3D Printing of Habitats on Mars: Effects of Low Temperature and Pressure

  • General Materials Science

Due to payload weight limitations and human vulnerability to harsh space conditions, it is preferable that the potential landing location for humans has an already constructed habitat preferably made from in situ materials. Therefore, the prospect of utilizing a readily available Martian material, such as regolith, in an easily programmable manufacturing method, such as 3D printing, is very lucrative. The goal of this research is to explore a mixture containing Martian regolith for the purposes of 3D printing in unfavorable conditions. A binder consisting of water and sodium silicate is used. Martian conditions are less favorable for the curing of such a mixture because of low temperature and pressure on the surface of the planet. In order to evaluate mechanical properties of the mixture, molding and 3D printing were conducted at various curing conditions and the mechanical and physical characteristics were compared. Due to the combination of low reaction speed at low temperature (2 °C) and rapid water evaporation at low pressure (0.1–0.01 bar), curing of the specimens in Martian conditions yielded unsatisfactory results. The reaction medium (water) evaporated before the curing reaction could progress enough to form a proper geopolymer. The specimens cured at high temperatures (60 °C) showed satisfactory results, with flexural strength up to 9 MPa when cured at a temperature of 60 °C and pressure of 1 bar. The specimens manufactured by 3D printing showed ultimate flexural strength that was 20% lower than that of equivalent molded specimens. Exploring potential mixture modifications and performing improved tests using the basis laid in this research can lead to an effective and realistic way of utilizing Martian regolith for unmanned 3D-printing purposes with minimal investment.

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