Protein from human blood mixed with urine and a heaping pile of space dust are key ingredients in AstroCrete, a new kind of concrete that University of Manchester researchers believe could be a valuable building material for tomorrow's offworld colonies. Given the cost of transporting construction materials into space, in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) is essential to the future of space exploration. From the University of Manchester:
In an article published today in the journal Materials Today Bio, scientists demonstrated that a common protein from blood plasma – human serum albumin – could act as a binder for simulated moon or Mars dust to produce a concrete-like material. The resulting novel material, termed AstroCrete, had compressive strengths as high as 25 MPa (Megapascals), about the same as the 20–32 MPa seen in ordinary concrete.
However, the scientists found that incorporating urea – which is a biological waste product that the body produces and excretes through urine, sweat and tears – could further increase the compressive strength by over 300%, with the best performing material having a compressive strength of almost 40 MPa, substantially stronger than ordinary concrete[…]
Animal blood was historically used as a binder for mortar. "It is exciting that a major challenge of the space age may have found its solution based on inspirations from medieval technology", said [materials scientist Aled] Roberts.