Topological Interlocking in Construction of Martian Settlements

Dyskin, A.V. (1), Estrin, Y. (2), Pasternak, E. (1), Khor, H.C. (1), Kanel-Belov, A.J. (3)

 (1) School of Civil and Resource Engineering, University of Western Australia, (2) Institut für Werkstoffkunde und Werkstofftechnik, Technische Universität Clausthal, Germany (3) School of Engineering and Science, International University of Bremen, Germany

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Abstract: We consider the use of a newly found principle of Topological Interlocking in construction of extraterrestrial settlements. This type of interlocking neither requires keys and connectors nor imposes high demands on the manufacturing precision. Using this principle, basic plate-like assemblies can be produced from blocks manufactured in-situ. Thus it becomes possible to form flexible mortarless structures with high resistance to fracture propagation and tolerance to missing or failed blocks. Interlocking of this type is achieved either by special arrangements of blocks of simple shapes (eg, platonic bodies) or by specially designed curved surfaces. An example of the first type of interlocking is given by plate-like assemblies of tetrahedra. The second type of interlocking is exemplified by a set of so-called osteomorphic bricks, permitting both plate-like and corner-like masonry structures, as well as columns. An attractive property of these building blocks is that they are self adjusting, such that the construction process does not require high precision positioning of the blocks and robotisation of the process is easily achieved. Neither is high manufacturing precision required, so that the construction can be based on in-situ mass production of cheap building blocks.


Possible applications of topologically interlocking blocks go beyond construction elements of the settlement structures. In extraterrestrial structures the functional modules themselves can be shaped to ensure their interlocking, which opens up interesting design perspectives. In particular, the advantage of using interlocking organisation of modules is the inherent self-adjusting property of topologically interlocking elements. The same geometry that locks the elements within the structure ensures that if in a loose structure the elements are not properly aligned, application of lateral load will force them into a regular planar arrangement. Thus, one can envisage an express method of the station assembly on planets with low gravity, which does not require special ground preparation.


PROFILE: Dr Arkady Dyskin is a professor at the School of Civil and Resource Engineering at the University of Western Australia.  He holds a B.S. and M.Sc. in Computer Science, (Moscow Oil & Gas Inst.), M.Sc. in Mathematics (Moscow State Univ.) and a PhD in Mechanics of Solids (USSR Academy of Sciences).  He has worked in industry as an engineer and programmer, and has held academic positions at the Moscow Mining Institute.  His research interests include rock mechanics, fracture mechanics, materials with microstructure and fractal mechanics.  Arcady won the 2003 Rock Mechanics Research Award by the American Rock Mechanics Association (ARMA), for the paper Germanovich, L.N. and A.V. Dyskin, 2000. Fracture mechanisms and instability of openings in compression, International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences, 37 (1-2), 263-284. In 1998 he won theAward for the best paper in Geomechanics at The Second Australasian Congress on Applied Mechanics: Pant, S.R., H.-B. Mühlhaus, D.P. Adhikary and A.V. Dyskin, 1998. Modelling the flexural buckling of slopes – A Cosserat continuum approach. Proc. ACAM 99. The Second Australasian Congress On Applied Mechanics.