Foam-Reinforced Polymer Matrix Composite Radiation Shields
New and innovative lightweight radiation shielding materials are needed to protect humans in future manned exploration vehicles. Radiation shielding materials are needed for large structures such as the space station, orbiters, landers, rovers, habitats, and spacesuits. Materials currently used are heavy, bulky, and ineffective in shielding humans against cosmic radiation, especially over long periods (months or years). One means of solving the problem of heavy radiation shields is to use lightweight polymeric shields that do not produce dangerous secondary radiation when irradiated, but these are typically not mechanically sound in structural applications. Ultramet has developed a versatile method for producing metal and ceramic foams that would function well as reinforcement phases in polymeric shields. This material is amenable to complexly shaped and large components and has been demonstrated under other programs to provide good particle trap capacity and exhibit no damage under extreme variations of temperature, high porosity, and low density. Ultramet proposes to fabricate high-efficiency polymer matrix composite radiation shields that will withstand repeated exposure to cosmic radiation. Initial shielding performance will be demonstrated through simulated cosmic radiation testing at Eril Research, and the program will benefit from collaboration with Northrop Grumman, a potential end user of the technology.
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