Student: Emily Olson, Graduate Student in Materials Science & Engineering, University of Iowa
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Shan Jiang and Dr. Greg Curtzwiler
Unique Nano-Assembled Coatings with Diverse Applications in and Beyond Space
NASA strives to expand widespread knowledge through the development of innovative technologies for space travel and beyond. Functional materials make significant contributions to the NASA mission, and coating technologies are at the forefront. Strategically designed coatings can ensure astronaut safety and successful completion of NASA missions. Here, we propose to meet these deliverables with the formulation of smart coating technologies. Two coating technologies are proposed: 1.) Ultra-thin, UV-blocking, visually transparent coating, and 2.) Water-resistant, pH sensing coating. The UV-blocking coating includes unique assembly patterns of nanoparticles. The matrix is a cellulose derivative, but there is interest in expanding the profile to include new matrices—including epoxy. Waterborne, epoxy dispersions offer a promising base for the introduction of nanoparticles. Different nanoparticles may be selected based on the intended application, as it has been previously shown that the assembly patterns are generalizable across nanoparticle identities. Nanoassemblies in epoxy composites may yield a variety of useful properties including the enhancement of structure robustness. In the form of an adhesive, an epoxy base could host the previously formulated nanoassembly to screen radiation via tuning optical performance. This offers a means of enhanced astronaut safety, as UV radiation is known to be very harmful to living tissues. Additionally, the pH sensing coating can be applied as a corrosion indicator. The dye molecules show strong color change with variation of pH, providing astronauts clear indicators of vehicle degradation. Both coatings can be easily applied, and the smart aspect provides an environmental response without external stimuli.