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Eric Schmid(’09) at Kennedy Space Center (NASA)

Photo: SDSM&T Ph.D. student Eric Schmid graduated Cum Laude from UJ in 2009 with a BS in Math and Chemistry.

Structural Thermal Insulation Composites

This project, led by South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SDSM&T), brings together teams from SDSM&T, the University of South Dakota and the Kennedy Space Center Materials Science Division, to develop lightweight, structural polymer composites with high thermal insulation properties for extra-terrestrial habitat construction, necessary to protect humans from harsh lunar and Martian environments. This project aligns with NASA goals in the “Human Health, Life Support and Habitation Systems” roadmap, as well as addressing the grand challenge of “Space Colonization” set forth by the office of the Chief Technologist.

The materials that have been developed at SDSM&T include micro-channeled and nanochanneled polymers and polymers that are highly loaded with hollow microcapsules and reinforced with nanoscale fibers. The thermal insulation properties of many of these materials have been tested with advanced instrumentation – the Macroflash cryostat – recently developed at NASA KSC, and have been found to have thermal insulation properties within the range of interest, while exhibiting robust properties. Two of the SDSMT graduate students supported by this project have spent a total of about 7 weeks at NASA Kennedy Space Center collaborating with scientists there, and one of these students has recently been awarded an internship at NASA Glenn. The development of expertise in “syntactic foams” and nano-channeled materials arising from this research has resulted in the award of grants in related areas, from the Army Research Laboratory and from industrial clients. The resources developed through the NASA EPSCoR award also significantly contributed the formation of the Composite and Nanocomposite Advanced Manufacturing Center, established by SDSMT in 2013, which includes a consortium of international and local companies.

One aspect of the work was the subject of a NASA Technology Disclosure – KSC 13760; and a provisional patent has been filed on the nanochanneled material, with strong potential for
commercial development.

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Posted:December 30, 2015


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