Regular readers of our site probably know very well that outer space beyond the earth’s atmosphere is literally riddled with radiation. But for some, it may turn out to be a great discovery that radiation hazardous to human health can also severely damage the electronic equipment of space satellites and ships. That is why engineers are constantly trying to come up with the most light, but at the same time effective material against radiation, which can protect on-board computers and other parts of space devices. At the moment, aluminum alloys are used for these purposes, but recently scientists from the US state of North Carolina have found that even rust can protect electronic equipment.
This sudden discovery was written in the scientific journal Radiation Physics and Chemistry. Scientists have found that the effects of cosmic radiation can be quite successfully blocked using a material consisting of acrylic and oxides of various metals. In simple terms, the main part of the new anti-radiation layer is rust, which is formed when metals interact with oxygen in a humid environment. Only in this case it is not about iron, on which rust is most often formed, but about other substances, less heavy in weight.
New spacecraft coverage
In laboratory tests, scientists found that a shield made of essentially rusty material reduces radiation exposure by about 300 times. Thanks to the use of new material, the weight of spacecraft can be reduced by as much as 30%, while maintaining protection from hazardous radiation. Or, you can make the devices a little heavier than usual and increase radiation protection by 30%.
According to scientists, the most suitable substances for creating a new material are oxides of gadolinium, tungsten and erbium. However, given the lower weight and cost, gadolinium oxide is considered the most preferred substance. In general, instead of oxides, scientists could use pure metals, especially since they provide even greater protection. Only now they have a greater cost, toxicity and can interfere with the operation of electronic devices, so the choice fell on oxides.
At the moment, scientists are looking for partners to help them create new material for lining spacecraft at a commercial level. It is quite possible that in the near future spacecraft with a completely new coating will fly into space, which will significantly increase their service life and ensure uninterrupted operation. After all, it is important to consider that some spacecraft were put out of action precisely because of the effects of cosmic radiation and did not complete space missions important to the scientific community.
For example, due to space radiation, the Phobos-Grunt interplanetary station launched in 2011 broke down. It was intended for the delivery of soil from the Martian satellite Phobos to Earth, but could not even leave the vicinity of our planet due to a failure on-board computer. If you believe the official version of the cause of the problem, the failure occurred precisely because of the effects of cosmic radiation. However, there is an unofficial explanation for the incident, which states that the computer crashed due to a malfunction at the software level.