Students look to make a form of concrete on the Space Station @space @NASA

The Biopolymer Research for In-Situ Capabilities investigation aims to create bricks with cement made from an organic compound aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

A lab at Stanford University has developed a novel approach to produce concrete using an organic protein, bovine serum albumin (BSA). By hydrating, then dehydrating a mixture of BSA and dirt, a concrete with half the strength of Portland cement is formed. BSA forms protein bridges between grains of silica, which is present in large quantities on the Moon and Mars, giving the cement its structural integrity.

Studying how the intermolecular bonds form between BSA and individual grains in microgravity allows for an understanding of how gravity impacts the strength of this composite material. By interpolating between the microgravity conditions on the International Space Station (ISS) and 1G on Earth, an analysis of how bricks would be formed on other planetary bodies may be developed. As part of this investigation, cylindrical bricks are made aboard the ISS. The bricks are returned to Earth where their composition is analyzed. The average number of protein bridges per grain of regolith are estimated with micro computed tomography (micro-CT) scans, which provides information on the microstructures of the bricks. The uniformity and magnitude of the strength of bricks made on Earth and in space are compared.

The test setup uses Adafruit BME680 sensors (on the front right).

See more on the Space Station Research Explorer on

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