Chitin Bioinspired Material To Build Tools & Shelters On Mars
Chitin is one of the most ubiquitous organic polymers in the face of Earth. Javier Fernandez and his colleagues at the Singapore University of Technology and Design have developed a simple manufacturing technology to build shelter and tools on Mars using Chitin. A study on it was published on September 16 in PLOS ONE, an open-access journal.
With the increasing aspirations of the scientist towards being an interplanetary species, the need for a versatile polymer that would meet the basic necessities like a shelter is sought. Chitin is one such material. Most organisms across the biological kingdoms produce and metabolizes Chitin. Chitin is a primary component in the exoskeletons of arthropods like crustaceans and insects. The cell walls of fungi and scales of fish and amphibians are too made of Chitin. Because of its ubiquity, Chitin is likely to find its way to any artificial ecosystem.
With the idea to ease early settlement on Mars, Fernandez and colleagues tried simple chemistry to extract and manufacture a new component with fewer energy requirements and without specialized equipment. The new material combines chitosan with a designed mineral that resembles Martian soil in terms of properties.
With the help of the chitinous material, a wrench and a Martian habitat model was constructed. The authors used the model to demonstrate how the chitinous material enables the rapid manufacturing of a wide range of objects, from basic tools to perhaps rigid shelter. This will aid to support human life in the Martian environment. This approach may be a key to the development of humans as an interplanetary species, suggested the authors.
Dr. Fernandez also elaborated more on the polymer. He stated that bioinspired manufacturing and sustainable material are not just substituting technology for synthetic polymers. It is an enabling technology that defines a whole new paradigm in manufacturing. It opens a world of things that are not achievable by their synthetic counterparts. In the model designed by the team, they demonstrated that Chitinous material is critical not only for the sustainability of humans on Earth but it is the next most significant achievement of humanity: its transformation into an interplanetary species.
Adding to the statement about the efficiency of the material, Dr. Fernandez stated that the technology was originally designed to create a circular ecosystem in urban environments. Considering its efficiency, it is the most efficient and scalable method for production in a closed artificial ecosystem, even in an extreme environment like a lifeless planet or satellite.
Author: Mayuree Hazarika
Chitin Bioinspired Material