Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Nanotech in Space: Rensselaer Experiment To Weather the Trials of Orbit

16.11.2009
Novel nanomaterials developed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are scheduled to blast off into orbit on November 16 aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis.

The project, funded by the U.S. Air Force Multi University Research Initiative (MURI), seeks to test the performance of the new nanocomposites in orbit. Space Shuttle Atlantis will carry the samples to the International Space Station (ISS). The materials will then be mounted to the station’s outer hull in a Passive Experiment Carrier (PEC), and exposed to the rigors of space.

Rensselaer professors Linda Schadler, of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Thierry Blanchet, of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering, worked with a team of researchers from the University of Florida to develop two different types of experimental nanomaterials. The MURI project and the University of Florida research team are led by Rensselaer alumnus W. Greg Sawyer ’99, who earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Rensselaer and is now the N. C. Ebaugh Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Florida. Blanchet was Sawyer’s doctoral adviser.

The first new material is a wear-resistant, low-friction nanocomposite, created by mixing nanoscale alumina particles with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which is known commercially as Teflon. Schadler and her research group introduced different fluorine-coated nanoparticles into conventional PTFE. The small amount of additive caused the wear rate of the PTFE to drop by four orders of magnitude, without affecting the PTFE’s coefficient of friction. The end result is a stronger, more durable PTFE that is almost as nonstick and slippery as untreated PTFE.

The gained benefit, Schadler said, is the difference between PTFE that can survive sliding along a surface for a few kilometers before wearing away, and a nanocomposite that could slide across a surface for more than 100,000 kilometers before wearing away. PTFE is often used to coat the surface of moving parts in different devices. The less friction on the surface of these moving parts, the less energy is required to move the parts, Schadler said.

“We’re very excited to have this experiment installed in the ISS, and to see how the new material performs in space,” Schadler said. “In a laboratory setting, the wear rate of the material is four orders of magnitude lower than pure PTFE, which means it is considerably more resistant to wear and tear. Just as important, these advances don’t increase the material’s coefficient of friction, which means the increase in durability won’t come at the expense of creating extra friction.”

Affixed to the station, which travels at about 27,700 kph, the nanocomposite sample will be exposed to ultraviolet radiation, and temperatures ranging from -40 degrees to 60 degrees Celsius. The nanocomposite will be mounted on a tribometer, developed by Sawyer, which will measure the friction of the material’s surface. A control sample of the material, protected in a vacuum chamber in the PEC, will also be tested. The apparatus will send data in real-time to the ISS laboratory, which in turn will be forwarded to the research team.

The second set of nanomaterials to be launched into space are conductive polymer nanocomposites. During the loading of the tribometers into the PEC for space travel, an opportunity arose to also test the conductivity of carbon nanotube-filled polyamideimide and liquid crystalline polymers as a function of space exposure. The conductive composites, developed by Schadler and former Rensselaer postdoctoral researcher Justin Bult – who is now a researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory — had to be developed in less than a week.

“It was an exciting week and we weren’t sure if the composites would hold up to the rigorous testing imposed on them to determine if they could even be launched into space,” Schadler said. “It was a thrill when some of them did, and to see the pictures of them mounted in the PEC.”

Blanchet said he’s very pleased, but not surprised, at the success of his former student, Sawyer, in leading this space-bound research study.

“Greg is at the top of his game, and it’s wonderful to see the research areas he was introduced to as a student here at Rensselaer evolve into such an important, high-profile experiment in the International Space Station,” Blanchet said. “The fact that he’s collaborating with Rensselaer researchers makes it even better.”

Schadler and Blanchet’s nanocomposites experiments are the second Rensselaer project to launch into space this year. In August, an experimental heat transfer system designed by Rensselaer professors Joel Plawsky and Peter Wayner was carried to the ISS aboard Space Shuttle Discovery.

The project, called the Constrained Vapor Bubble (CVB), will remain installed in the ISS for up to three years. The experiment could yield important fundamental insights into the nature of heat and mass transfer operations that involve a phase change, such as evaporation, condensation, and boiling, as well as engineering data that could lead to the development of new cooling systems for spacecraft and electronics devices.

Contact: Michael Mullaney
Phone: (518) 276-6161
E-mail: mullam@rpi.edu

Michael Mullaney | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.rpi.edu

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Manchester scientists tie the tightest knot ever achieved
13.01.2017 | University of Manchester

nachricht CWRU directly measures how perovskite solar films efficiently convert light to power
12.01.2017 | Case Western Reserve University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

Im Focus: Newly proposed reference datasets improve weather satellite data quality

UMD, NOAA collaboration demonstrates suitability of in-orbit datasets for weather satellite calibration

"Traffic and weather, together on the hour!" blasts your local radio station, while your smartphone knows the weather halfway across the world. A network of...

Im Focus: Repairing defects in fiber-reinforced plastics more efficiently

Fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) are frequently used in the aeronautic and automobile industry. However, the repair of workpieces made of these composite materials is often less profitable than exchanging the part. In order to increase the lifetime of FRP parts and to make them more eco-efficient, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Apodius GmbH want to combine a new measuring device for fiber layer orientation with an innovative laser-based repair process.

Defects in FRP pieces may be production or operation-related. Whether or not repair is cost-effective depends on the geometry of the defective area, the tools...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Multiregional brain on a chip

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New technology enables 5-D imaging in live animals, humans

16.01.2017 | Information Technology

Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>