We caught up with the project team Gracinda Ferreira (principal inventor, UA, currently at Cranfield University, United Kingdom), Domingos Barbosa (IT-UA), Miguel Bergano (IT-UA), Ricardo Sousa (UA), and Victor Neto (UA), to know more on the patent recently granted by INPI - “3D printer for in-situ construction of habitable modules with a raw mixture of binders and the soil of Mars”, an outcome of the research project “Celestine - 3D Printing Approach to the Sustainable Habitat Problem in Mars Colonization."
This technology called MAIA, which means “Automated deployment and docking mechanism", consists of a semi-solid material cold extrusion machine (3D printer) for the construction of habitable modules with a raw mixture of any type of sedimentary soil, water, and additives.
In the interview, we realized more deeply the innovation brought by this new method for construction in extreme conditions, namely on Mars. We also realized that this invention may have other applications that probably would respond to housing humanitarian needs.
Miguel Bergano underlined that this was an interdisciplinary research outcome that resulted from “an original idea of, at the time, an architecture student at the University of Aveiro, Gracinda Ferreira."
Following Domingos Barbosa "the innovation of this invention lays on using local natural resources in future colonization or exploration on Mars."
Gracinda Ferreira also stated that, although similar prototypes already exist in operation, "this project proposes an alliance between cutting edge technologies in several engineering domains with millennia-old methods and materials", so "the transformational impact of this proposal is immense, not just on Mars but on our planet as well."
This invention was born in 2014 and the patent was granted in 2021. After this phase, the team is aiming to the next step, which is testing it on the moon, and then finally on Mars. This invention is most interesting when applied to aerospace industries. Although this is the main goal in the larger horizon, meanwhile this method can also be tested in the field of architecture and civil engineering.