ISRO-IISc Develop Space Bricks
Humans have been exploring space for ages. We have been working on new technologies to know our universe better and exploit its resources. In the same line, ISRO ( Indian Space Research Organisation) and IISc (Indian Institute of Science) has developed the ‘space bricks’ through sustainable methods. Martian soil, bacteria, and urea are used to prepare these bricks. If successful, the process would allow the construction of habitats on the Moon and eventually on Mars.
What is space brick?
It developed keeping in mind the environmental conditions like pressure, temperature, terrain, etc., to survive the extreme situation. They are designed with the vision of construction on these planets.
How is it made?
‘Space Brick’ results from much hard work of scientists and even biologists. It is developed after much research. It exploits lunar soil and uses bacteria and guar beans to consolidate the soil into possible load-bearing structures.
It costs 75 lakhs to send 1 pound of material to outer space. Thus, sustainability becomes a major issue. ISRO and IISc team has done a great job on it. They used urea, sourced from human urine, and lunar soil as raw materials for the construction on the Moon’s surface. This decreases the overall expenditure considerably.
Some micro-organisms can produce minerals through metabolic pathways. One such bacterium, Sporosarcina pasteurii, produces calcium carbonate crystals through a metabolic pathway called the ureolytic cycle: it uses urea and calcium to form these crystals as by-products of the pathway.
One of the most exciting things about its development is that it has pretty low carbon emissions making it exploitable for brick making on earth as well.
Who said what?
In discoveries like this, it is crucial to see what the scientists and global community have to say to get a better picture.
“It is really exciting because it brings two different fields — biology and mechanical engineering — together,” says Alok Kumar, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, IISc, one of the authors of two studies recently published in Ceramics International and PLOS One.
“Living organisms have been involved in such mineral precipitation since the dawn of the Cambrian period, and modern science has now found a use for them,” says Kumar.
“We have quite a distance to go before looking at extra-terrestrial habitats. Our next step is to make larger bricks with a more automated and parallel production process,” says Kumar.
“Our material could be fabricated into any freeform shape using a simple lathe. This is advantageous because this completely circumvents the need for specialized molds — a common problem when trying to make various shapes by casting. This capability could also be exploited to make intricate interlocking structures for construction on the Moon, without additional fastening mechanisms,” explains Koushik Viswanathan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, IISc, another author.
Our earth is constantly becoming more and more unhabitable due to its temperature rise (Global warming). Scientists have been looking at its alternative in space. Along with it, it becomes quite relevant to look at the issues such as the development of structures in outer space with a vision of habitation and the aim of the research. ‘space brick’ is the first big step in this direction.
On the other hand, we must also praise our hard-working scientists who come up with new and new research to make human life easy.
Shashank Trivedi is the writer of this article. Views expressed, and information provided belong solely to the author.