Economic Transformation News

NC State Students Promote Textiles as Solutions to Space Travel Challenges

From the Triangle Business Journal:

NCSU students say textiles can soar into space

By Dale Gibson

Friday, June 3, 2011

N.C. State University engineering students might hold the ticket to the final frontier. Well, the ticket to living arrangements in space at least.

A group of aeronautical and textile engineering students at N.C. State say advanced textile materials are the ticket to long-term living quarters that protect astronauts from Outer Space elements such as radiation or meteorites. The new materials could allow an extended voyage into space, potentially even a trip to Mars.

NASA has historically used products such as aluminum, fiberglass and carbon fibers. Those products are good, but they are large and bulky and not conducive to long trips, says textile engineering student Brent Carter.

The solution to those solid materials might lie in textiles, which can be easily coated with all types of protective materials.

Students designed a 1,900-square-foot inflatable living space that could comfortably house four to six astronauts. It was made by layering radiation-shielding materials like Demron (used in the safety suits for nuclear workers cleaning up Japan’s Fukushima plant) with a gas-tight material made from a polyurethane substrate to hold in air, as well as gold-metalicized film that reflects UV rays.

Students are also using textiles to look at ways of increasing water capacity on spacecraft by mixing carbon dioxide – available in large quantities on Mars – with hydrogen – easily brought on a spacecraft because it is relatively lightweight.

The team of N.C. State students received feedback from an advanced life support systems engineer with NASA. Students will present their project at the NASA-sponsored Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) competition June 6-8 in Cocoa Beach, Fla. The project will be judged by NASA and industry experts against those from other undergraduate groups from across the country.