A spacecraft skin composed of nano-engineered layers able to protect against radiation, re-entry heating and micrometeoroids is under development at NASA's Ames Research Center.

Known as the Thermal, Radiation and Impact Protection Shield (TRIPS) project, the skin would consist of material layers that protect against each of the three threats. An open-ended project, TRIPS is viewed as key to the US space exploration initiative to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Last week the Ames Research Center held a conference on technology, including nanotechnology, and space exploration for its industry partners.

"We are working with industry on a protection shield, a passive multi-layered material. If there was a meteoroid impact, for example, it could automatically close up afterward to repair the damage," says David Lakner, technology partnership manager at NASA Ames Research Center.

The US space agency has also had discussions with Biophan Technologies, a US biomedical device manufacturer. It is developing nano-engineered materials that could form part of this shield. It has produced what it calls nanomagnetic thin film.

Tiny magnetic particles are spread across the film, which could be grown into thick sections. These thick sections could shield against certain types of radiation.

Biophan says the number and location of the nanomagnetic particles in the film enables the material to be "tuned" to deflect certain radiation frequencies, including cosmic and solar radiation. Such a material could also protect against electromagnetic pulses, caused by nuclear detonations, and Biophan Technologies has held talks with the US military.



Source: Flight International