Space just might be the place for nanotechnology-based plastics.
Nanopolymers are being used in a variety of space-travel aerospace systems because of their weight, performance and durability, according to Michael Meador, chief of the polymer composites branch at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
Meador spoke at the Ohio Nanotechnology Summit 2007, held April 24-25 in Akron.
``Future exploratory missions can't be met with conventional materials,'' Meador said. ``There's a need for material on satellites, rovers and spacesuits. Current materials work OK in a vacuum, but not in an atmosphere like Mars.''
Current nanotech plastic projects at NASA Glenn include:
* Using nanoscale fillers such as organically modified clays on a variety of polymers to make cryogenic tanks and other products.
* Nanoenhanced epoxy resins being used in lightweight propellant tanks to reduce permeability.
* Nanoscale silica parts in aerogels and polymer foams based on acrylic, epoxy and polystyrene.
* Polymer films and nanowires in communication equipment.
``Nanotechnology can help us get around some existing limitations,'' said Meador, who has led NASA Glenn's polymers branch for almost 20 years.