(fashion) Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have made cement in space for the very first time — revealing it forms with a different structure in the low gravity.
Understanding how cement forms in space and the conditions found on the moon and Mars could pave the way to building new structures on these bodies.
Cement is a key part of concrete, a material that is both sturdy and provides better protection against radiation and temperature extremes than other materials.
Scroll down for video
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have made cement in space for the very first time — revealing it forms with a different structure in the low gravity
In its simplest form, concrete is a mixture of paste and aggregates, or rocks.
The paste, composed of cement and water, coats the surface of the fine and coarse aggregates.
Through a chemical reaction called hydration, the paste hardens and gains strength to form the rock-like mass known as concrete.
Within this process lies the key to a remarkable trait of concrete: it's plastic and malleable when newly mixed, strong and durable when hardened.
These qualities explain why one material, concrete, can build skyscrapers, bridges, sidewalks and superhighways, houses and dams.
Polymer concrete is a type of concrete that uses polymers, typically resins, to replace lime-type cement as a binder.
'On missions to the Moon and Mars, humans and equipment will need to be protected from extreme temperatures and radiation,' said lead researcher and civil engineer Aleksandra Radlinska, of the Pennsylvania State University.
'The only way to do that is by building infrastructures on these extraterrestrial environments. 'One idea is building with a concrete-like material in space. Concrete is very sturdy and provides better protection than many materials.'
The most widely-used building material, concrete is a mix of sand, gravel and rocks that are bound together with a paste made of cement power and water through a complex chemical process.
However, while experts know how concrete behaves and hardens on the Earth, it is not clear if the process would operate in the same way in space, where gravity is significantly different to that experienced on the Earth's surface.
'How will it harden? What will be the microstructure? Those are the questions we're trying to answer,' Professor Radlinska added.
To investigate, researchers on the