Much is speculated about, one day, we will take human life to the space. Of course, this is a very distant scenario for us, but published studies in the newspaper Materials Today Bio already indicate that the construction of colonies on Mars or the Moon will be done with blood, urine, sweat and tears. Literally.
We understand if your first question was “who had time to study this?” – to which we will answer “University of Manchester”, in England. But the second question would necessarily have to be "where did this idea come from?" – and, well…in the Middle Ages, the putty they used for concrete had animal blood in its composition, so this isn't exactly new.
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“Scientists have been trying to develop viable technologies to produce materials similar to concrete in the Mars surface, but we never stopped to think that the answer to that could have been within us all this time,” said Aled Roberts, the materials engineer who signs one of the studies.
Basically, Roberts and his team managed to create a material, somehow, even more powerful than ordinary concrete, using simulated regoliths (the name given to the thin layer that covers a rock) from Mars and the Moon, mixing in it a protein found in human blood , in addition to compounds seen in urine, tears and sweat. This is because previous research has shown that regoliths can be great building materials, but we would still need some material to “glue” them together.
This seems like a good time to emphasize that the mixture is not "blood ou urine" but "blood e urine". In other words, all the ingredients go in this “soup”. That is, if you convince astronauts to be donors.
Despite the strange tone, the research has a background of importance: not only does our common concrete not behave well in space, but if and when the time comes to move to colonies on Mars or the Moon, we will have to be creative – estimates Recent reports claim that a single brick would cost about $2 million (10,44 million reais) to be transported to the red planet.
That is, each gram in the carrying capacity of a rocket account.
Therefore, it would be much more convenient and economical if we already had the materials on hand (or veins, or urinary tracts, or in the sweat of the skin) when we got there.
For example, urea, an enzyme produced in the liver, filtered by our excretory system and eliminated at the time of "peeing", helps to give a plasticizing effect to the concrete, making it less porous and, consequently, more difficult to break down.
The material created by Roberts and the other scientists, called "Astrocrete" (yes, "Astro" and "concrete") makes use of albumin, a protein found in blood plasma, to "glue" the simulated regoliths, giving them strength at compression of up to 25 megapascals – ordinary concrete is just 22. Then they added urea to the compost, increasing the strength to an incredible 39,7 megapascals.
“Essentially, the albumin from human serum produced by astronauts in vivo [clinical term to refer to a material inside a living being] could be extracted in a semi-continuous routine, combined with regoliths from Mars or the Moon”, says an excerpt from the study. Changing numbers, the scientists estimate that, over two years, six humans could donate enough albumin to create 500 kg of "astrocrete".
But calm down: you don't have to start alleviating your physiological needs in a bag of cement to sell it to NASA. Not only was the experiment done in a controlled environment (with clinical extractions, it's worth mentioning), we still need to understand the effects of continuous bodily fluid donation in environments of altered gravity or high radiation (two features that describe Mars in detail).
Further, although research is promising, scientists believe this would be more amenable to some short-term action (eg, in the absence of other materials or emergencies). In the future, they expect more advanced technologies to fulfill this part of establishing our colonies on Mars on larger scales.
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