NASA has given the public a wide array of technologies- from artificial limbs and water purification to freeze drying of space food and 3d food printing. With these impressive advanced engineering, this new cool "space fabric" still can't seem to slip our sight. Why?
Well, these fabrics made in NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, can protect spacecrafts, space suits, and antennas from space rocks. It can also reflect light, is flexible, and can keep you insulated!
Prototypes of this material look like chainmails but instead of having metal rings being linked together, these space fabrics were "printed" with small silver squares stringing together. This technique is called additive manufacturing or 3d printing on an industrial scale. Unlike traditional manufacturing techniques where parts are being welded together, additive manufacturing deposits material layer by layer to build up the required object.
While the latter sounds more complicated, it is cheaper and more efficient in creating unique materials like certain parts of a jet engine. “We call it ‘4-D printing’ because we can print both the geometry and the function of these materials. If 20th Century manufacturing was driven by mass production, then this is the mass production of functions,” JPL engineer Raul Polit Casillas said.
These "space fabrics" have four essential functions: reflecting light and radiation, foldability, passive heat management, and tensile strength. Moreover, the fabric has two sides: a light-reflecting flat side, and a light-absorbing chain side which acts as a means of controlling heat. It can fold and adapt to shapes easily while still being able to sustain the force of pulling on it (like a real chainmail)! This means that travelling through them wouldn't be a drag.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, this technology could've helped TIE fighters and stormtroopers from the elements, but still won't help them from laser blasts and light sabers!