Invention may help to protect astronauts from radiation in space

07-07-2017


Building on more than 15 years of research by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS) and the Australian National Fabrication Facility, ANU scientists have designed a new nano material that can reflect or transmit light on demand with temperature control. This opens the door to technology that protects astronauts in space from harmful radiation.

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Associate Professor Andrey Miroshnichenko (L) and Dr Mohsen Rahmani demonstrate how the nano material can reflect or transmit light on demand with temperature control. (Image: Stuart Hay, ANU)


Lead researcher Dr Mohsen Rahmani from the CUDOS node at ANU said the material was so thin that hundreds of layers could fit on the tip of a needle and could be applied to any surface, including spacesuits.

"Our invention has a lot of potential applications, such as protecting astronauts or satellites with an ultra-thin film that can be adjusted to reflect various dangerous ultraviolet or infrared radiation in different environments," said Dr Rahmani, an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Research Fellow at the Nonlinear Physics Centre within the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.

"Our technology significantly increases the resistance threshold against harmful radiation compared to today's technologies, which rely on absorbing radiation with thick filters."

Transfer or reflect

ANU scientists have designed a new nano material that can reflect or transmit light on demand with temperature control, which opens the door to a wide array of potential applications. (Image: ANU)


Co-researcher Associate Professor Andrey Miroshnichenko said the invention could be tailored for other light spectrums including visible light, which opened up a whole array of innovations, including architectural and energy saving applications.

"For instance, you could have a window that can turn into a mirror in a bathroom on demand, or control the amount of light passing through your house windows in different seasons," said A/Prof. Miroshnichenko.

"What I love about this invention is that the design involved different research disciplines including physics, materials science and engineering."

Co-lead researcher Dr Lei Xu said achieving cost-efficient and confined temperature control such as local heating was feasible.

"Much like your car has a series of parallel resistive wires on the back windscreen to defog the rear view, a similar arrangement could be used with our invention to confine the temperature control to a precise location," said Dr Xu.

The research is published in Advanced Functional Materials.

Source: Australian National University