One objective of space exploration is the concept of in situbringing very little from Earth and using what would be found on the planet, natural satellite, or visited asteroid. Researchers are trying to use existing materials on Mars, and a new study has found a way to create a titanium alloy that uses Martian regolith, the Red Planet’s soil.
As explained in International Journal of Applied Ceramic Technologya research team used Martian soil to create ceramics and also mixed it with a titanium-aluminum-vanadium alloy.
This alloy is known for its physical strength as well as corrosion resistance, and the team was very interested to see if adding Martian soil would improve the properties.
The metal-ceramic composite is particularly resistant
Creating ceramics from 100% regolith was not successful. This material tends to crack so it is not useful as a building material. However, it can be used as protection against oxidation and can even attenuate radiation.
Mars has no magnetic field, so there is less protection from the solar wind and cosmic rays. This creates some unique auroras on Mars but is dangerous for future astronauts.
But regolith can be used to make a fairly robust material. When a small portion of the regolith (5%) was mixed with the titanium alloy, the team found that it drastically improved the material’s properties and made it much lighter.
The mixture can be used in 3D printers
“It gives you a better material with higher strength and hardness, so it can perform significantly better in some applications,” said Amit Bandyopadhyay of Washington State University. quoted by IFLScience.
The team created the mixture by melting the alloy at over 2,000 degrees Celsius and adding a Martian-like soil, and the mixture can be used in special 3D printers.
“This establishes that it is doable and maybe we should think in that direction because we need metal-ceramic composite parts that are strong and can be used for any kind of structural parts,” Bandyopadhyay added.