Origami Inspires NASA’s New Shape-Shifting Radiator Design

Posted: Feb 2 2017, 12:08pm CST | by , Updated: Feb 2 2017, 12:13pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Origami Inspires NASA’s New Shape-Shifting Radiator Design
Credits: Brigham Young University
 

NASA combines heat-shedding coating with tradional origami technique to make more efficient, foldable radiators

Inspired by origami, the Japanese art of paper-folding, NASA has developed new radiators for keeping satellites cool in space. The new radiators are soft, three-dimensional structures that can change their shape to remove or retain heat on small satellites.

The shape-shifting radiators would eliminate the need for hard and rigid conventional satellite radiators that may not be suitable for tiny, light weight satellites.

Origami is a traditional art of folding paper into various decorative shapes and figures. Today, this technique is inspiring engineers to design soft and flexible materials and structures that can fold, bend, stretch or curve and overcome traditional design constraints without decreasing performance or efficiency.

“This approach has the potential to be a game changer in thermal design,” said Vivek Dwivedi, a technologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Our goal is to replace traditional radiators with dynamic ones, period.”

NASA’s technologists have teamed up with researchers from Brigham Young University in Utah to create origami-inspired foldable radiators. While it is almost magical how engineers have used origami to create radiators, the challenge for them will be to improve the quality and work efficiency of these radiators. 

Radiation has always been an issue for satellites. Standard radiators gradually degrade when exposed to the space radiation environment and fail to remove heat on the satellites. To create more efficient shape-shifting radiators, researchers are trying to deepen folds or cavities. The deeper the folds, the greater the absorption of heat.  

“Origami allows you to change the depth of these cavities in real time, thereby changing the heat loss from a surface in real time.” Dwivedi said.

Researchers are also developing a coating to boost radiator’s heat-shedding or conservation capabilities.

“The combination of origami and a vanadium-oxide-based coating would be the first time two different variable emissivity devices have been combined into one structure.” Brigham Young University assistant professor Brian Iverson said.

By combining both technologies, researchers believe they will be able to create a smaller and more efficient radiator ideal for use on CubeSats. CubeSats are miniature satellites that are relatively low cost and help universities to perform space exploration and research worldwide.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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