The Problem with that New Spacecraft Smell |
Outgassing — the physical process that creates that oh-so-alluring new car smell — isn’t healthy for humans and, as it turns out, not particularly wholesome for sensitive satellite instruments, either. But a team of NASA engineers has created a new way to protect those instruments from its ill effects.
For some people, the best part about buying a new car is its factory-fresh new car smell, a distinctive aroma created when the chemicals and residual solvents used to manufacture dashboards, car seats, carpeting and other vehicle appointments outgas and fill the cabin. While the scent may be alluring to some, many researchers believe exposure to these gases isn’t particularly healthy — so unhealthy, in fact, that some recommend that drivers keep their new cars ventilated while driving.
Outgassed solvents, epoxies, lubricants, and other materials aren’t especially wholesome for contamination-sensitive telescope mirrors, thermal-control units, high-voltage electronic boxes, cryogenic instruments, detectors and solar arrays, either. As a result, NASA engineers are always looking for new techniques to prevent these gases from adhering to instrument and spacecraft surfaces and potentially shortening their lives.
A group of technologists has created a low-cost, easy-to-apply solution, which is more effective than current techniques.
Led by Principal Investigator Sharon Straka, an engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., the team has created a new, patent-pending sprayable paint that adsorbs these gaseous molecules and stops them from affixing to instrument components. Made of zeolite, a mineral widely used in industry for water purification and other uses, and a colloidal silica binder that acts as the glue holding the coating together, the new molecular adsorber is highly permeable and porous — attributes that trap the outgassed contaminants. Because it doesn’t contain volatile organics, the material itself doesn’t cause additional outgassing.
“It looks promising,” Straka said. “It collects significantly more contaminants than other approaches.” continue reading
I used to work with RABS gloves at my old job. Boy to I miss having fun with them.