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Mars dust can be 3D printed into rocket parts

2022-09-23 08:21:01Chinese Industry Information Station

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Researchers have discovered a way to use Martian dust to 3D print tools and parts.Image credit: Washington State University

To do this, the researchers tested Martian rock dust (regolith).This is a black powdery substance used to simulate rocky material found on the surface of Mars, collected by the robotic arm of the Mars rover.The researchers mixed simulated Martian rock dust with a titanium alloy using a powder-based 3D printer.Titanium alloys are commonly used in space exploration due to their heat resistance and strength.

The researchers used a high-power laser to heat the materials to more than 2,000 degrees Celsius to melt them.Then, pouring the molten mixture onto a moving platform allows the researchers to create different sizes and shapes.After the material cooled, the researchers tested its strength and durability.

Notably, the researchers used Martian regolith in proportions ranging from 5% to 100% in the print.Parts made with just 5% of Martian regolith without any cracks or air bubbles performed better and were stronger than titanium alone.This means it can be used to make lighter weight parts and still withstand heavy loads.While objects made of 100% regolith are more prone to cracking and lack strength, the material can nonetheless be used to make coatings to protect equipment from rust or radiation damage.

This innovation could make it possible to make parts directly on Mars.Amit Bandiopadi, a professor at Washington State University, said it would be difficult for a crewed spacecraft mission to take everything into space, and if they forget a tool on the mission, they can't immediately return to Earth to retrieve it.In addition, it would cost about $54,000 to put just 1 kilogram of material into Earth orbit.So anything that can be made directly in space or on Mars could save the space shuttle money and weight.

Bandi Opadi said the research is still in the early stages and the team hopes to get better results by using different metals or 3D printing techniques.

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