FIU’s sample coating will be placed on the side of the International Space Station that directly faces the Sun. After six months, a crew of astronauts will take the material back to Earth for analysis.
“Our team selected direct exposure to the sun because we want to be very harsh on our coatings,” says Sara Rengifo ‘16, a materials engineer at NASA who is working with Agarwal on the research.
FIU and NASA scientists will be watching closely for how the coating changes temperature as the space station orbits Earth. Meanwhile, back at FIU and NASA laboratories, the material will be tested for its durability against lunar dust, tiny shards of rock found in abundance on the moon’s surface.
NASA expects the test’s findings to benefit future missions. The resulting data could help the agency reduce service and repair needs. The research may also yield commercial implications in industries where materials face harsh conditions, such as in nuclear waste containment and hypersonic vehicles production.
The research is a collaboration between public and private entities. Six Panthers are working on the project, including four interns. FIU is the principal academic partner.