Humanity’s intrepid settlers on the planet Mars may end up living in homes made out of potatoes, scientists say.
Boffins at the University of Manchester have created a special type of Martian building material called StarCrete, which is made from a combination of extraterrestrial dust, potato starch and a pinch of salt.
The space-age material is said to be twice as strong as ordinary concrete, and relies on simple materials, making it easy to produce cheaply.
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"Since we will be producing starch as food for astronauts, it made sense to look at that as a binding agent rather than human blood," said Dr Aled Roberts who led the research.
"Also, current building technologies still need many years of development and require considerable energy and additional heavy processing equipment which all adds cost and complexity to a mission.
"StarCrete doesn’t need any of this and so it simplifies the mission and makes it cheaper and more feasible."
A 25-kilo sack of dehydrated potatoes has enough starch to create half a tonne of StarCrete, according to research published in the journal Open Engineering.
While a single bag could make roughly 213 bricks, scientists say a three-bedroom house requires around 7,500 bricks.
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The biggest challenge facing scientists is finding a reliable way to grow potatoes on Mars.
Martian settlers will need to find a way to grow food on the red planet if they want to establish a permanent colony.
The group is now working on testing StarCrete as a building material on Earth, in the hopes that it can one day be used for off-planet construction.
In March 2018, the US instructed NASA to send humans to Mars by 2033, thought it is more likely that this will be achieved by 2035 or later given the sheer number of hurdles that humanity faces in the race to Mars.
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