Space Tech Trends: Advanced Materials
January 13, 2022
Read about Infinite Composites and current tech trends in Space:
One of the fundamental technologies underpinning the future of space is advanced materials, specifically composites. Simply put, a composite material is a substance that results from combining two or more distinct materials. The result is often an entirely unique, hybrid product with properties far different from, and much more valuable than, the capabilities of its parent materials. (A quick note on alloys: alloys and composites are both mixtures of elements, but the difference is that alloys by definition must include one metal in their composition, while composites do not contain any metal components.)
Common examples of composites include fiberglass (made from combining glass into a plastic matrix), concrete (made by combining stones, cement and sand) and yes, even bones of the human body (derived from an age-old bio-recipe that combines calcium phosphate and collagen). In each case, these composite materials are much more versatile (fiberglass), strong (concrete) and rigid (bone) than their parent materials, opening up a wide range of additional capabilities and practical uses.
Composites make the best “building blocks,” and the same principles that have allowed humanity to expand our transportation networks over the past fifty years (from bridges to highways to carbon fiber sports cars and airplanes) are now being applied to space. For example, Lockheed Martin has been quick to implement carbon and glass-fiber reinforced laminates into the most heavy components of their F-35 Lightning II combat aircraft. It isn’t a stretch to imagine similar components being used to build the next generation of space shuttles and lunar habitation modules.
Other companies like Infinite Composites have developed multiple types of cutting edge composite pressure vessels built with advanced manufacturing processes that have applications on land (e.g. fuel storage tanks), underwater (e.g. hydrogen / general fluid storage), in the air (e.g. emergency slide inflation) and, of course, in space (e.g. pressurant and propellant tanks).