Citizens of the Imperium

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aramis May 2nd, 2017 06:30 PM

Mars Bricks

A team of NASA-funded researchers from UC San Diego, and led by structural engineer Yu Qiao, made the surprising discovery using simulated Martian soil -- that's dirt from Earth which has nearly the same physical and chemical properties. They found that by compressing the simulant under high pressure, it readily created blocks stronger than steel-reinforced concrete.
Interesting - makes the Tatooine desert clay seem more reasonable.

kilemall May 2nd, 2017 08:05 PM

This gets into some issues that I see very little writing about- what sort of chemical engineering, agriculture, materials science and other disciplines will be possible with something new or at least abundant on different worlds?

So much of our technology is predicated on our nitrogen-oxygenated water-rich planet. I expect completely different products made all over that will be beyond our expectation, even without gravitics or fusion.

Ran Targas June 3rd, 2017 09:53 PM

Sorta is the point of an active space program; solve new problems with new solutions then backfeed everything you learned to make the old stuff better. Who knows what tech will be common place 10-20 years after establishing our first off-planet colony.

timerover51 June 4th, 2017 03:21 PM

Quite a while ago, probably the early 1960s, there was an article in The Reader's Digest about a group in Central America who were using "Rammed Earth", i.e. earth compressed under high pressure, for building inexpensive houses for people. With the right earth mixture, they were approximating concrete blocks in strength and durability. The device for doing the compression was quite simple to make, and could be made out of wood. It relied on a very long lever to achieve the needed compression when operated by one man. Included in the story was an anecdote about a Catholic priest assigning parishioners to produce a certain number of blocks are penance.

Condottiere June 4th, 2017 03:36 PM

Most of the Great Wall used to be compacted earth, with integrated drainage.

There still some two millenia old sections standing.

BlackBat242 June 5th, 2017 11:11 PM


Originally Posted by Condottiere (Post 567335)
Most of the Great Wall used to be compacted earth, with integrated drainage.

There still some two millenia old sections standing.

Yes... but mostly in the dry (desert) western sections of the wall(s).

Yes, there were over a dozen major walls, many connected, but some forming back-ups to other sections.

Condottiere June 6th, 2017 07:21 AM

They didn't just come up with that solution when Huangdi thought he needed to grow the economy, so he killed two birds with one stone in infrastructure and defence spending.

Archaeology shows the Chinese were building walls like that in their breadbaskets two millenia before that. Maybe without the drainage.

atpollard June 6th, 2017 08:48 AM

I suspect a bit of a game is being played with the facts.

Tracing the paper trail, it talks about research into concrete that uses sulfur (melted and cooled) as the binder in place of 'water and cement' to create concrete. Then it talks about natural high concentrations of sulfur in the soil of Mars. Then it discusses how a powerful blow from a hammer can bind the soil of Mars into a concrete like substance. This sounds like pressure heating of sulfur to make concrete which is more of a chemical transformation than a 'rammed earth' application.

It is still interesting, but some of the rhetoric is a bit misleading. I am fairly certain that they are melting sulfur to physically and chemically bond the aggregate together to make concrete. I question if it will scale up economically to compress bricks. I think that some sort of external heat source will be more efficient.

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