How a polymer nanocomposite-based material could shield spacecraft against radiation
AUTHOR : Elahe Cheraghi

Image By NASA. 


Alpha and beta particle emissions, x-ray or gamma ray electromagnetic radiation, and neutron particle emissions are often employed – or encountered as a byproduct – in industries such as nuclear power, healthcare, and aerospace. But all of them can be hazardous to humans and electronics.

These different types of high-energy radiation can damage biological tissue in devastating ways leading to health problems, such as DNA mutations, cataract issues, and heart disease.

Radiation-induced damage can also have an adverse effect on electronic devices. It is clear that exposure to such dangerous radiation needs to be reduced to try to mitigate the hazards.

This is especially the case onboard a spacecraft – where conditions can be cramped. The health of astronauts on manned missions is paramount, but the onboard electronics also need to be safely maintained. To address this issue, materials should be applied that protect spacecrafts from radiation.

Metals and their alloys, such as aluminium, have been used in this way for decades. However, these materials are heavy and bulky, which makes them inappropriate for the aerospace industry. Use of these materials leads to heavier payloads and higher costs, while also slowing down the mission due to increased fuel consumption.

The race is on among researchers to design an alternative shielding material that is lightweight, cost-effective, efficient, and flexible. Polymers – which are very large molecules made when smaller molecules are joined together, end-to-end – have a weight advantage compared with metallic materials. At the same time, they are capable of shielding against radiation.

CATEGORY : Smart Materials