A little Martian dust seems to go a long way. A small amount of simulated crushed Mars rock mixed with titanium alloy has made it a stronger, high-performance material in a 3D printing process that could one day be used on Mars to make rocket tools or parts.
The parts were made by researchers at Washington State University with at least 5% up to 100% Martian regolith, a black powdery substance intended to mimic rocks, inorganic materials Found on the surface of the red planet.
While the 5% Martian regolith portions were strong, the 100% Martian regolith portions proved brittle and cracked easily. However, even materials with a high Martian content will be useful in making coatings to protect equipment from rust or Radiation damagesaid Amit Bandyopadhyay, corresponding author on the study published in International Journal of Applied Ceramic Technology.
“in outer spacesaid Bandyopadhyay, a professor in WSU’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. I can’t go back to get it.”
Bringing materials into space can be very expensive. For example, the authors note that it costs about $54,000 for a NASA space shuttle to put just one kilogram of payload (about 2.2 pounds) into Earth orbit. Anything that can be made in space, or on the planet, will save weight and money — not to mention something happens, astronauts will need a way to fix it on site.
Bandyopadhyay first demonstrated the feasibility of this idea in 2011 when his team used 3D printing Manufacture of spare parts from the lunar regolithSimulation of crushed moon rocks for NASA. Since then, space agencies have embraced the technology, and the International Space Station has its own 3D printers to manufacture required materials on site and for experiments.
In this study, Bandyobadiaye with graduate students Ali Afrozian and Kelin Traxl used a powder-based 3D printer to mix simulated Martian rock dust with an alloy of titanium, a metal often used in space exploration for its strength and heat-resistant properties. As part of this process, a high-powered laser heated the material to more than 2,000 degrees Celsius (3,632 Fahrenheit). Next, the molten mixture of Martian regolith ceramics and mineral materials flowed onto a moving platform that allowed the researchers to create different sizes and shapes. After cooling the material, the researchers tested it for strength and durability.
The ceramic material made from 100% Martian rock dust cracked as it cooled, but as Bandyopadhyay explained, it can still make good coatings for a radiation shield because cracks don’t matter in this context. But a little Martian dust, the mixture containing 5% of the regolith, not only cracked or erupted, but also showed better properties than Titanium alloy Alone, which means it can be used to make lighter weight pieces that can withstand heavy loads.
“It gives you a material that has better and higher hardness and strength, so it can perform better in some applications,” he said.
Bandyopadhyay said this study is just the beginning, and future research may yield better compounds using different metals or 3D printing techniques.
“This proves that it is possible, and we should probably think in that direction because it not only makes weak plastic parts but metal-ceramic composite parts are strong and can be used for any kind of structural part,” he said.
Ali Afrozian et al., The Martian Ore-Ti6Al4V Compounds by Additive Fabrication, International Journal of Applied Ceramic Technology (2022). DOI: 10.1111 / ijac.14136
Washington State University
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