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Sand melting, 3D-printing solar powered rovers

Image credit: Markus Kayser

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 05, 2020
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Autonomous solar-powered rovers that roam around deserts and 3D-print structures by melting the sand.


  • On the outskirts of deserts build the necessary infrastructure that helps to shrink them. Roads, buildings, wind protection for resilient plants, etc.
  • Practice and perfect technology for Mars.
  • Terraforming deserts with fleets of solar-powered, 3d-printing, and sand-removing rovers.

How it works

In 2011 Markus Kayser created the Solar Sinter - a stationary, semi-automatic, solar-powered robot that melts the desert sand into glass. In essence, this is a solar-powered 3d printer that uses the desert sand as a filament to create structures made of glass.

The obvious next step for this idea is to create autonomous solar-powered rovers to operate on the outskirts of deserts and slowly, but surely print structures that would be useful to life:
  • houses, towns
  • roads? (followed up by solar-powered, sand cleaning robots)
  • structures that protect resilient plants from desert sun and sandstorms
  • structures that aid in irrigation and forestation of deserts, gradually pushing the boundaries of deserts inwards
Creative contributions

Terrabox from Maana Electric

jnikola Aug 03, 2021
A startup from Luxemburg, called Maana Electric, recently developed a fully automated solar panel factory called TerraBox, which requires only sand and electricity. They even got SpaceStarters reward.

How does it work?
Well, I couldn't find that information, so I guess it's a business secret.

It can literally use any type of sand found on Earth or on Mars to create solar panels. It's 100% clean, unlike the conventional solar panel producing systems, which "produce more CO2 per kWh than where we need to be by 2040 to stop global warming". It's light and it produces oxygen as a byproduct, so the astronauts can use it for breathing.

Future directions
The company focused on using the most out of the harshest conditions on Earth and beyond. Their plan is to 1) curbe Global Warming, 2) conquer space and test this product on Moon, Mars and beyond.
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Coupled with the simplest solar tracker to correctly position the melting lense

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Jul 26, 2021
This is what genius simplicity looks like. A solar tracker that doesn't require a computer, software, motor drivers, internet, or any programming.

A variation of this would be perfect for always keeping the sand melting lens focused.
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General comments

jnikola4 years ago
It´s really cool and I like it! I agree with Povilas, but there is not a lot of options on a desert planet. Toughened glass could be used as a building material (at least as filling blocks between solid construction), but also as an insulation from the heat (glazed glass units).
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Robert Petrušić
Robert Petrušić4 years ago
I have had the same idea. It would be cool to insertinto mars rover a micro sand-glass brick factory and to make a building made of those bricks. It doesnt have to be fast.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic4 years ago
Agreed. Take a look at what they had in mind for the moon base https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pk9PWUGkz7o There is quite a lot of iteration to do before the rovers can operate at that level. Deserts are a perfect ground for practice
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Povilas S
Povilas S4 years ago
But glass is not a very practical material. It's practical only in a narrow niche of uses and it requires sophisticated processing to change its usual properties. I don't know enough about chemistry and physics of the process of sand melting, but if the final material has properties similar to regular glass, then it's not very useful. Maybe you can change the properties by regulating the parameters of the process, but you can't change the primary material - it's sand. You might be able to change the outcome by adding additional materials, but then you need to bring them from somewhere else and robots would need to carry containers of those materials with them, so it would no longer be so economical and ecological. The coolest use of this that comes to my mind is those robots driving around in Burning Man and making glass sculptures all over the place!
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni4 years ago
Loved this idea! This idea can also be used to study Mars (starting with our Moon) and building infrastructure there. Mars soil composition is similar to that of Earth. It has high amount of silicon in it. I believe converting sand to glass is based on the fact that sand is composed of silicon. For now, such rovers/ robots can be built to study Mars in more detail. Later on, they can be used to build all kinds of necessary stuff.
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