New Space and Tech

Ultra-lightweight Multifunctional Space Skin Created To Withstand Extreme Conditions In Space

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
University of Surrey
March 21, 2023
Filed under ,
Ultra-lightweight Multifunctional Space Skin Created To Withstand Extreme Conditions In Space
Challenges associated with structural materials selection for space structures. (A) Schematic illustration with environmental effects for orbiting satellites, aircrafts, and planetary science missions. (B) Image of the Sentinel-5 optical support carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) structure. (C) Comparison of simplified selection matrix for structural satellite components with superlattice nano-barrier–enhanced (SNBE)–CFRP (this work).

A new nano-barrier coating could help protect ultra-lightweight carbon composite materials from extreme conditions in space, according to a study from the University of Surrey and Airbus Defence and Space.

The new functionality added to previously developed ‘space skin’ structures adds a layer of protection to help maintain space payloads while travelling in space, similar to having its very own robust ultralight protective jacket.

The research team has shown that their innovative nano-barrier would help drastically increase the stability of carbon fibre materials, while reducing radiation damage.

Professor Ravi Silva, corresponding author of the study and Director of the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) at the University of Surrey, said:

“Current aluminium shielding is not thermally stable or fully conformal, and therefore usually undesired for stable structures. Not to mention that aluminium shielding contributes to the mass and cost of satellites. Our nano-barrier addresses these issues and is a promising upgrade to the industry standard which could become a key accessory to all space and aircraft structures that are both mobile and static.”

The coating is a highly dense superlattice structure applied to carbon fibre materials at room temperature which does not add over 1 μm of thickness, therefore keeping the materials lightweight.

The study has been published in Science Advances.

Radiation and electrostatic resistance for ultra-stable polymer composites reinforced with carbon fibers, Science Advances (open access)


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