Tutorial on Microgravity Research
page 3: Specific Areas of Microgravity Research
Examples of commercial markets that can be developed with a microgravity manufacturing presence that cannot be achieved on earth are as follows:
Terra Foam is a silica based nanocrystalline foam, similar to an aerogel material. However, unlike aerogels, Terra Foam can be composited with numerous organic and inorganic compounds to create an endless variety of materials of different characteristics, e.g. Making materials flammable or inflammable, degradable or non-degradable, dense or lightweight, malleable or durable. Also, unlike aerogels, Terra Foam can be mass-produced by a continuous flow process using low temperatures, little or no pressure and no hazardous volatile chemicals.
Terra Foam is intended to be used as follows:
- building products, light and heavy duty;
- thermal and acoustic barrier materials;
- shielding materials, radioactive or electromagnetic;
- radio transmissions
- energy production, controlled or uncontrolled; and
Terrafoam is a rigid, silicate based inorganic foam. It is the only inorganic foam with a cost of production low enough to make it practical for ordinary commercial applications. The raw materials for its manufacture are available worldwide in effectively inexhaustible quantities. It is nonflammable and does not five off noxious fumes when in the presence of fire. It can be constructed to degrade over short or long time periods. It does not conduct heat to any measurable degree and thus is an outstanding and possible unsurpassed thermal insulator. In addition, it appears to have unique radiation shielding capabilities, including an ability to block alpha, beta, gamma, x-ray, and even cosmic rays). Terrafoam can be constructed to be extremely lightweight. Altering the manufacturing process and the inclusion of other materials can vary the properties of Terrafoam. Properties such as cell structure, tensile strength, bulk density and temperature resistance can be varied to suit specific applications. It self-welds to concrete, aluminum and other metals. The useful variations on the base product are potentially in the thousands.
Perhaps the most exciting potential applications for Terrafoam stem from its extraordinary capability as an ultra-lightweight thermal and radioactive shield. These properties may answer the existing construction problems confronting NASA in its quest to design the construction of nuclear powered spacecraft and even space or moon-based habitable environments.