Lotus coating from NASA repels dirt and dust to protect space equipment.

Benefits

  • Dust and dirt resistant
  • Flexible
  • Durable

Applications

  • Spacecraft
  • Space equipment

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

The Challenge

Dust is prevalent on lunar surfaces and can be incredibly damaging to spacecraft and other equipment. It adheres to every surface, including skin and metal, creating a restrictive, friction-like action. Highly abrasive lunar dust has also been known to adhere to astronauts’ spacesuits, causing damage.

Innovation Details

The coating is made from silica, zinc oxide and other oxides, and was originally developed to reduce the need for window cleaning on spacecraft. It is now being developed and tested to perform under multiple conditions, including extreme temperatures, ultraviolet radiation, solar wind, and electrostatic charging. Different variations of the coating may also be developed depending on different needs. For example, a coating that’s applied to spacesuits would need to adhere to a flexible surface, while a coating developed to protect moving parts of the spaceship or lunar equipment needs to be exceptionally durable to resist wear and tear. The team is also looking to add a biocide to the coating, which would kill bacteria that thrive and produce foul odors wherever people are confined to a small space for long periods, like the space station. NASA could also apply the same biocide-infused coating on a planetary lander to prevent Earth-borne bacteria from adhering and potentially contaminating the surface of an extraterrestrial object.

Biomimicry Story

Lotus plants stay dirt-free, an obvious advantage for an aquatic plant living in typically muddy habitats. The surface of the lotus leaf contains microscopic bumps that prevent water molecules from adhering to the surface. Instead, the water rolls right off, and picks up any dirt or oil on the surface of the lotus leaf along the way.