Jul 11, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers at West Virginia University (WVU) have received a $100,000 grant from NASA to develop 3D printed foams for the International Space Station (ISS). The foams could be used in solar cells and batteries, as well as for radiation shielding.

Majid Jaridi, professor of industrial and management systems engineering at WVU, is having a busy month. In addition to receiving a three-year, $750,000 grant from NASA to develop ways to increase the onboard autonomy of planetary rovers, the professor has—in collaboration with Assistant Professor Kostas Sierros—received a $100,000 grant to conduct research and technology development aboard the International Space Station.

For this latter grant, Jaridi and Sierros will work with Professor Emeritus John Kuhlman and researchers at University of Rome Tor Vergata. Their research will combine materials science with new 3D printing techniques, and could have important consequences for work carried out on the ISS.

Over the course of the $100,000 research project, the team will attempt to advance the robotic 3D printing of titanium dioxide foams, which could be used in various space applications such as making efficient solar cells and batteries, and fabricating radiation shielding.

Once Jaridi, Sierros, Kuhlman, and their team have developed the 3D printed foams, samples will be tested in Low Earth Orbit conditions. When these samples are brought back to Earth, they will be inspected for degradation using various characterization methods.

Crystal structure of rutile, a form of titanium dioxide; oxygen atoms are red, titanium atoms are gray

“This degradation data will give significant early insight into the applicability of our TiO2 foam materials for the identified potential space applications before going forward and exploring their printing characteristics under microgravity conditions,” said Jaridi.

In Jaridi’s other research project, he and assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Yu Gu will develop ways to increase the onboard autonomy of planetary rovers. The WVU experts will partner with researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mobility and Robotic Systems Section to carry out the research.

“Mars rover missions are among the highest profile NASA missions, and have generated enormous scientific, engineering, and educational impacts,” Jaridi said. “However, academic and industry researchers working at West Virginia University have never played a role in the past and current NASA Mars rover programs.”

NASA recently marked Asteroid Day, June 30, by revealing how it uses its Pleiades supercomputer and special 3D modeling software to run high-fidelity simulations of potential asteroid events. The space organization says its simulations could mitigate the effects of high-profile disasters like the 2013 Chelyabinsk event, where more than 1,200 people in Russia were injured.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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