Sunday, January 27, 2008

Building Materials

The previous post looked at possible methods of building and providing housing for an Antarctic colony. This post will go into slightly more depth about materials that could be used.

Fibrous Cement

Using a custom designed mix of fibrous cement with a high insulation value may be a viable option for Antarctic construction. Some of the most well known mixes such as the ill fated Asbestos filled Fibro and the lesser known Papercrete likely wouldn't preform well in Antarctica. However, using a different fibrous material, such as hemp fibers combined with other insulating material may yield stronger and more well insulated structures. Standard rebar reinforced concrete could be used for load bearing walls and support columns.

Hemp fibers could be initially imported and later grown locally in large underground hydroponics bays. If a small cement factory could also be established, that would reduce the reliance on imports and make a partially self-sufficient Antarctic construction industry.

Fibrous cement is an amazingly versatile material and can be used for building everything from insulating shells for underground tunnels, interior walls, water pipes, to furniture and even novelty items. Certain mixes of fibrous cement can even be worked and sculpted like clay. Blocks or bricks can be poured in standardized sizes. Custom sized blocked can also be produced fairly easily. Entire walls can be poured into place if need be.

There are many possibilities with various mixes of fibrous cement. The ability to produce it locally on site and customize it would seem to fit well with the needs of an Antarctic colony.


Another option, while not suitable for indoor construction, should not be overlooked for building outdoor unheated structures. A version of Pykrete could also be produced with locally grown hemp fiber pulp and used to make things like outdoor cold storage buildings. Simple things like walls and wind sheltered walk-ways may be appropriate for this material too.

Radiant Barriers

As was mentioned on in the last post, radiant barrier material alternating with layers of air pockets may provide a high insulation solution for interior spaces. Fibrous cement could easily be incorporated to frame and support those layers of radiant barrier materials. This would likely be far more cost effective than other conventional materials like wood, and would also offer superior fire protection.

If anyone has any input or alternative suggestions feel free to add them in the comments here.


Nuclear is our Future said...

Take a look at vacuum insulated panels - VIPs, they give R-50 per inch. A perfect vacuum should give R-infinte but VIPs are low pressure and supported by aerogel material.

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Neutrino Cannon said...

Aerogel based composites seem like a good starting point. Aerogels have decent compression strength, and a fibrous support for additional tensile strength would not unduly sacrifice insulation.

Rebiu said...

Portand cement cannot freeze while it is setting so it will have to be climate controlled durring construction.

James said...

How many people do you suppose could live in Antarctica?

Republibot 3.0 said...

Hey. I was just curious to know if this site was still active or not. The last postings seem to be nearly two years old.

Assuming it is, in answer to James' question is that I'd assume about 9 million people could live comfortably in Antarctica, assuming they went with the full-on Marsdome Alien Colony-on-earth kind of lifestyle. ANyone else have any opinions?

DCM said...

looking for a group that is planning a colony in antarctica. Please feel free to contact me if you are, and particularly if you are looking for fellow colonists.

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