Could Clay Buildings on Mars Become a Reality?
Scientists at TU Berlin are studying clay minerals found on the red planet. The researchers hope to have tapped a new resource that is suitable for constructing simple shelters or functional utensils on Mars.
On 18 February 2021, the Mars 2020 Mission will finally land on the Red Planet. The Mars Perseverance Rover is scheduled to touch down at Jezero Crater, a large crater which scientists believe was once a lake. If there ever was any life on Mars, proof could be found here due to the previous habitable conditions provided by the water. The rover will pursue a number of scientific objectives, including looking for signs of previous habitability. On the basis of satellite observations of the planet, we already know that the crater contains high levels of clay minerals, just as on earth. Such clay minerals have been the focus of research for many years at TU Berlin’s Chair of Advanced Ceramic Materials, led by Professor Dr. Aleksander Gurlo.
In a number of publications, researchers provide evidence that these minerals would be suitable both for the production of earthenware utensils from fired ceramics and for the construction of entire houses. “Due to its remoteness from earth, human exploration, permanent stationing or even the inhabitation of Mars will only be possible through the use of local resources - a practice referred to as in-situ resource utilization,” explains David Karl, a research associate in Gurlo’s team.
Research processes under Martian conditions
The scientists hope to have tapped into a new resource for future research on in-situ resource utilization. In their publications, the researchers successfully demonstrate that their material system can easily be adapted to fit all shaping routes for the production of green bodies or fired ceramics, thus making the system ideal for the construction of simple dwellings or functional objects on Mars. The first measurements taken by the Perseverance Rover could help them to further optimize the clay composition of their materials. Their ultimate aim is to support scientific research about Mars using this clay-based material system.