Additive Manufacturing of Meteoritic steel

Samantha Maness;

Growing interest in the scientific exploration of Mars and examining its potential for human colonization has motivated increased research into the establishment of extraterrestrial permanent settlements. This infrastructure critically requires the use of local resources to generate high-quality industrial materials since the cost of transporting these from Earth is prohibitively high. Of these materials, iron-based alloys are the most promising due to their excellent tensile strength and ductility at ambient and low temperatures, necessary for pressurized habitats and space vehicles [1, 2].

Iron-nickel alloys are especially attractive for these applications due to widely available resources in the form of meteorites on the Martian surface, which have a composition in the range Fe-(5-10)%Ni. Unlike iron oxide from the Martian soil, iron-based meteoritic metal is already reduced and alloyed with nickel, providing additional strength and toughness. Furthermore, atomizing these alloys into powder permits their use as feedstock in additive manufacturing (AM) processes such as direct-ink writing (DIW) and selective laser melting (SLM), making it possible to generate complex shapes [2, 3].

In this project, Fe-(5-10)%Ni powders are atomized and used as direct feedstock for SLM processing, in addition to being combined with fugitive polymer binders for use as DIW feedstock. Printed components are analyzed in terms of compositional homogeneity, microstructural integrity, and mechanical performance to identify and refine optimal processing parameters. The goal of this project is to be able to use meteoric-composition Fe-Ni inputs fabricated via AM techniques to create structural alloys able to withstand the mechanical and cryogenic demands of extraterrestrial environments.

Fig. 1. Fe-rich portion of the Fe-Ni phase diagram demonstrating the general range of compositions found in Fe-Ni meteorites [3].

Fig. 2. Yield stress vs Temperature plot demonstrating the tensile (filled points) and compressive (open points) performance of Fe-Ni alloys with meteoritic composition [3].

Related Publications

  1. G.A. Landis, "Meteoritic steel as a construction resource on Mars" Acta Astronautica, 2009.
  2. S.L. Taylor, ., R.N. Shah, D.C. Dunand, "Sintering of micro-trusses created by extrusion-3D-printing of lunar regolith inks" Acta Astronautica, 2019.
  3. A.A. Ahles, J.D. Emery, D.C Dunand, "Mechanical properties of meteoritic Fe-Ni alloys for in-situ extraterrestrial structures" Acta Astronautica, 2021.

Funding support