NASA and the University of Central Florida are teaming up to find a way to 3D print structures on Mars. Previously, there have been 3D printed houses and concrete construction blocks here on Earth. However, it isn’t feasible to ship the materials necessary to Mars that would even break ground on something of this matter. Therefore, the two are collaborating to create a process for extracting metals from Martian soil, known as molten regolith electrolysis. Regolith, or moon dust, is in very short supply here on earth, and while there are stimulants available, there composition differs from that of moon dust. Because of this, UCF has come up with a refinement process for extracting metal from Martian soil.
The process is fairly simple, to the surprise of many. Astronauts would essentially extract Martian soil from the planet’s surface, and feed it into a chamber. The chamber would then be heated to nearly 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit which would produce molten metal and oxygen. Professor Sudipta Seal, the chair of UCF’s Material Science and Engineering program is helping NASA to better understand how the material produced would work with a 3D printer. He explains, “It’s essentially using additive-manufacturing techniques to make constructible blocks. UCF is collaborating with NASA to understand the science behind it.”