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Nanomaterial to Protect Astronauts from Space Radiation

Scientists have designed a nanomaterial that can reflect or transmit light on demand, opening the door to technology that protects astronauts in space from harmful radiation. Dr Mohsen Rahmani of The Australian National University’s Nonlinear Physics Centre 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,” Rahmani said. “Our technology significantly increases the resistance threshold against harmful radiation compared to today’s technologies, which rely on absorbing radiation with thick filters.”

The invention, published in Advanced Functional Materials, could be tailored for other light spectra, including visible light. This opens 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 co-author A/Prof Andrey Miroshnichenko.

Co-lead researcher Dr Lei Xu said that cost-efficient and confined temperature control, such as local heating, was also 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.”