What material could one day be used to make 3-D printed tools?

Answer: Martian dust

by / April 19, 2017
Flickr/Kevin Gill

While humans aren’t quite ready to colonize Mars, scientists are already working to figure out how to create a new built environment once we’re there.

A team of engineers from Northwestern University have shown the ability to 3-D print objects like tools using NASA-approved synthetic Martian and lunar dust. The engineers used the dusts along with solvents and biopolymer to create “3-D paints” that are more than 90 percent dust by weight. After it’s printed the material is both flexible and durable, and can be molded as desired, such as into building blocks.
 
“For places like other planets and moons, where resources are limited, people would need to use what is available on that planet in order to live,” said Ramille Shah, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and creator of the 3-D painting process.