Liquid Metal Fabric Will Protect Astronauts from Lunar Dust

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NASA is again turning to lunar exploration after over five decades, and the Artemis mission signifies a substantial leap in revolutionary technology fueling space exploration. The space agency now faces a threat that though it seems very mundane, is a formidable adversary: lunar dust.

According to Interesting Engineering, lunar dust poses substantial risks to both astronauts and the mission’s equipment on the lunar surface. This fine, abrasive dust is composed of crushed rock and can wreak havoc on lunar landers, endanger the respiratory health of astronauts if inhaled, and interfere with vital instruments. An example of the dust’s detrimental effect on equipment is it causes radiators to overheat and potentially destroy spacesuits.

In 2019 NASA established the Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative (LSII), which aims to stimulate interest and innovation in lunar exploration technologies and actively focuses on lunar dust.

While previous research explored active solutions like liquid nitrogen sprays to remove lunar dust off of space suits, and other passive methods like engineered surfaces resistant to the dust, Ph.D. Arif Rahman found a liquid answer to NASA’s dust problem. Rahman proposed the utilization of liquid metal for building LiqMEST (Liquid Metal Electrostatic Protective Textile)- a fabric that repels lunar dust on demand while retaining flexibility and stretchability.

Rahman’s inspiration for this innovative approach comes from his extensive experience with liquid metals. “When I learned that NASA has a problem with lunar dust sticking to the surfaces and posing a significant threat to the equipment and astronauts, it occurred to me that liquid metals might offer a potential avenue for developing an electrostatic or electrodynamic shield to mitigate these issues with lunar dust,” he said.

The LiqMEST technology aims to serve as an outer layer for NASA’s space suits and fabric covers, making it stretchable. Rahman explains: “When activated, [the technology] generates an electric field that repels lunar dust, preventing the dust from adhering to the LiqMEST fabric.”

Rahman, with the help of engineering students from HPU, intends to produce a prototype by the end of May 2024, and once the prototype is successfully developed, he plans to submit a full grant proposal to NASA for the development of a LiqMEST product. Rahman believes that this technology will usher in a new era of lunar exploration.