Researchers from the Northwestern University have demonstrated the potential of 3D printing structures with simulants of Martian and lunar dust. These Martian and lunar dust simulants are NASA-approved, and bear similar particle shapes, compositions and sizes to the dusts on Mars and moon surfaces.
The Martian and lunar 3D paints are made by mixing the respective dusts with different simple solvents, and a biopolymer. And then 3D printing of these with a simple extrusion process is done. The structures thus resulting are more than 90% dust by weight.
Though these are composed of rigid micro-rocks, the final 3D-painted material is elastic, flexible and tough like rubber. This material can be rolled, cut and folded.
Printing is a highly scalable, easy, and sustainable manufacturing method for space travelers. They can use the 3D paints to print various structural and functional objects using the available resources there to make everything from little tools to huge buildings, says the team. The research was published in the Nature Scientific Reports.
Further work is being carried on optimizing ways to heat the 3D structures in a furnace to transform these rubbery, soft things into ceramic-like, hard structures.