New material created to protect against the harmful radiation in space

Knowing that radiation exposure leaves astronauts  in space with an increased risk of cancer and other diseases, a team from Australian National University (ANU) has developed a new nanomaterial that could protect space travelers with a thin film that dynamically reflects harmful radiation.

The surface is made up of nano-particles that can reflect certain wavelengths of light as needed, in this case - infrared and ultraviolet. The properties of the material, regarding fact that different layers could selectively allow or prevent this light from passing through, can be influenced by changing the temperature. By heating and cooling the material, the nano-particles become more or less refractive as it expand or contract.

Researchers Andrey Miroshnichenko (left) and Mohsen Rahmani (right)

“By calculating those variations in the optical properties we managed to design and fabricate resonant nano-particles, which can act differently before and after changing the optical properties. Therefore how they interact with light can be controlled and designed on demand," lead researcher Mohsen Rahmani said to media. The heating source that triggers the reaction can either be external or built in, and potentially controlled using a laser or micro-heaters embedded inside the substrate, in a defined area. "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," another research co-participant revealed. The goal of researchers is to increase the resistance against the harmful radiation.