To boldly go where no man has gone before…. thanks to graphene! A team of researchers from Manchester University and architects from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill unveiled a graphene-enhanced space habitat capable of supporting human life.
Essentially, the researchers and architects created a scaled prototype of a space habitat with pressurised vessels designed to function in a space environment. “Designing for habitation in space poses some of the greatest challenges – it means creating an environment capable of maintaining life and integrating crew support systems. As architects, our role is to combine and integrate the most innovative technologies, materials, methods, and above all, the human experience to designing inhabited environments,” said Daniel Inocente, senior designer from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. “Conducting research using graphene allows us to test lightweight materials and design processes that could improve the efficacy of composite structures for potential applications on Earth and future use in space.”
Over the next ten years, most governments will plan a permanent space presence to manage critical infrastructure. This includes looking after already established satellite networks to considering new opportunities to explore space resources and further scientific exploration.
“A major barrier to scaling up in time to meet this demand is the lack of advanced and automated manufacturing systems to make the specialist structures needed for living in space. One of the space industry’s biggest challenges is overcoming a lack of robotic systems to manufacture the complex shapes using advanced materials”, said Dr. ViVek Koncherry.
For the experts, the solution includes using graphene for its structural capabilities, such as protection from radiation, as well as creating a new generation of robotic machines to build these structures. The team believes this technology can potentially change lightweight systems, which could even be used in the construction and car manufacturing industries.
“The work being led by Dr. Koncherry and his colleagues is taking the development of new composites and lightweighting to another level, as well as the advanced manufacture needed to make structures from these new materials. By collaborating with SOM there are opportunities to identify applications on our own planet as we look to build habitats that are much smarter and more sustainable”, said James Baker, CEO Graphene@Manchester.
This work comes at the same time as some other world firsts in the use of graphene, including, for example, the first external pour of graphene-enhanced concrete and pioneer work to develop graphene-based road resurfacing.