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ISRU Plastics

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Plastics are one of the most versatile construction materials known to man. One of the most important proposed uses is that of constructing green houses, since all food will have to be grown in them.

Overview of greenhouse plastics and materials

Finding ways to synthesize plastics on Mars is a daunting task due to the large variety of chemical processes used to make them. One way to start is to examine the plastics made on earth and attempt to improvise strategies for obtaining the raw materials on Mars.

The following table contains common greenhouse plastics on earth, the raw materials needed for production, whether the process itself requires something not available (large machinery, massive power consumption, etc), and overall feasibility.

Plastic Raw Materials Process Feasibility Overall Feasibility
Polycarbonate Bisphenol A

Sodium Hydroxide

Low density polyethene Ethene

Organic peroxide

Free radical polymerization:

Requires 300 degrees celsius, 2000 atm

High density polyethene ethene

an organometallic compound

Coordination polymerization
Polyethelene terepthalate


Raw materials are placed in a mold

and heated, good for custom molds.

This chart details the chemicals required for making various plastics, the raw materials required (at least in standard manufacturing, alternatives may exist)to make them, processes for synthesis, Martian sources, and the feasability of obtaining them on site. "Produce" in the materials list means it can be grown in a greenhouse, and "simple" in the synthesis list means it can be performed with standard equipment that will be on hand

Compound Raw Materials Synthesis Martian sources feasibility
Bisphenol A Acetone

Hydrochloric acid/Polystyrene (catalyst)
Toluene (for removing phenol)

Acetone Produce Acetone can be obtained organically,

from corn, for example.

Greenhouse Plausible
Carbon monoxide Carbon dioxide Byproduct during Martian Oxygen Production Atmosphere Plausible
Ethanol Produce Can be created in the same

process that is common here on earth.

Greenhouse Plausible
Ethene Possibly produce,

ethanol, sulfuric acid sodium hydroxide

Simple Synthesized
H+ Water Electrolysis of water, I believe, produces an H+ and an OH- ion. Greenhouse - use condensation that misses plant pots or whatever plants are groun in. Not very plausible in the short-term - water being precious
Phosgene Carbon monoxide

Chloride gas
Activated Carbon(catalyst)

Hydrochloric acid
Sodium Hydroxide Sodium Oxide

H+ (I assume)

Simple synthesis reaction

(I assume)

Synthesized Plausible
Sodium Oxide Native surface, jasparite contains 1.5%

on average in some areas

Extraction technique research pending Surface Plausible

Overview of construction plastics and required materials

Though the majority of construction materials used in extraterrestrial colonies will probably be brick-like or iron, plastics may be needed for building more precise pieces such as pipes. Following is a table of plastics that are commonly used for such purposes on Earth.

Plastic Raw Materials Process Feasibility Overall Feasibility