The Spaceflight Now article Cygnus arrives at station with CubeSats, quantum physics experiment describes experiments that will be done on the ISS mixing small samples of either cement or concrete (I don't know the difference) with water and allowing them to harden. They will be returned to Earth and compared to matched samples prepared on Earth.
It is hard for me to imagine why there would be any difference except for gravity, and for such (presumably) small samples, I'm not sure how that would matter. The article mentions two questions they hope this will address:
- “How can we use it more sustainably on Earth, and..."
- "How can we make usage of raw materials present in space and make a concrete-like cement binder in space?”
Question: How is this experiment using pre-prepared samples from Earth expected to yield any information that addresses these questions? Are there any expected differences between the concrete samples prepared on the ISS and the matched samples prepared on the Earth?
Another science experiment carried by Cygnus will study the solidification of cement in microgravity.
“We are looking into colonizing space,” said Aleksandra Radlinska, principal investigator for the cement experiment from Penn State University. “We want to go to the moon and deep space beyond, and we will need shelters for the human missions. We will need to protect equipment from radiation effects and impacts that these could experience.”
Concrete could be a “go-to” material to build such shelters, she said.
“In our research, we actually look into how cement reacts with water, and how this very complex process of microstructure formation happens in space,” Radlinska said.
Despite the prolific use of concrete, the process of solidification when mixing cement and water “has been fascinating scientists for the last 50 years,” she said. “And for the last 50 years, despite the current technology and instrumentation that we have, we still don’t understand that process completely.”
Radlinska’s team sent up multiple pouches with cement and water for astronauts to mix on the space station. The samples will come back to Earth for comparison with the results obtained from similar pouches mixed on the ground, according to Juliana Neves, a graduate researcher on the experiment at Penn State.
The investigation will ultimately help address two questions, Radlinska said: “How can we use it more sustainably on Earth, and how can we make usage of raw materials present in space and make a concrete-like cement binder in space?”
Related "concrete" questions:
- Mars: Readily usable sulfur for sulfur concrete?
- What series of devices would you need to deliver to the Martian surface to manufacture concrete entirely in-situ?
- How thick would a Marscrete structure need to be to provide adequate protection against radiation?
- Are there relevant resources on the Moon for civil engineering?
- Low energy cements for Mars and Callisto. Waterless cement for the Moon. Any good candidates?
- What's required to construct a space port on the Moon or Mars?
- How would we make concrete on the Moon?