Photo via tanakawho via Flickr CC
NASA is taking a hint from biomimicry and looking at lotus leaves for inspiration for a special coating that will prevent particles from sticking to surfaces of spaceflight equipment. The many tiny spikes covering the surface of the leaf are idea for minimizing the amount of surface area where dust and other matter can accumulate. It's this same idea that NASA is hoping to recreate in transparent form, so it can cover everything from space suits to robotic vehicles in a dust repellent coating.According to PhysOrg, researchers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD are working with Northrop Grumman Electronics Systems and nGimat Corporation to develop the coating.
The technology itself isn't new - we've had dirt-repellents for years. The trick is getting it to work in space - an environment completely different from river beds.
"I think one of the most aggravating, restricting facets of lunar surface exploration is the dust and its adherence to everything no matter what kind of material, whether it be skin, suit material, metal, no matter what it be and its restrictive, friction-like action to everything it gets on," said Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan during the Apollo 17 Technical Crew Debriefing.
New formulas are being tested out, with various formulas needed for the variety of surfaces it will be used on, from flexible fabric to rigid surfaces. Lotus leaves provided the inspiration for the first ideas. Perhaps the solutions for tweaking the formula for various needs will be found through biomimicry as well.
Lotus leaves aren't just useful for looking at how to repel dust. Back in 2004, we talked about how water lilies were the inspiration for a biomimetic waterproofing as well.
More on Biomimicry in Coatings and Repellents
Beetle Biomimicry: A New MacBook Coating?
Biomimicry's First Consumer Product - Insect Repellant From Catnip
Biomimicry: Shark-Inspired "Skin" for Cars Claims to Improve MPG