A group of scholars from the University of Technology and Design in Singapore may have found a solution to a dilemma: how are we going to set up shelter and tools on Mars, an environment that offers few viable alternatives for construction? For scientists, the answer may lie in chitin, a biological polymer present in particular in the exoskeletons of certain insects and crustaceans, as well as in the scales of fish and in the cellular composition of certain fungi.
For the study, recently published in the journal PLOS One, scientiscans used the shrimp shell, dissolved in acetic acid (common in the fermentation process) and a compound made to simulate Martian soil. The resulting material was transformed into a functional screwdriver, in addition to several geometric shapes (such as cylinders and cubes), which in turn served to test the structural capacity of the compound. Experts reinforce that metallic tools are still irreplaceable for certain tasks, but that the material may well offer security when used in Martian construction.
The use of traditional building materials is a delicate subject for space agencies for two reasons: the first, most obvious, is that mixing cement in environments where liquid water is a very rare item is not simple. Second, it is costly to export something into space: NASA estimates that $ 10,000 is spent for every half a kilo of material sent out of orbit.