Russian Scientists New Intriguing Work in Electronics Protection On Spacecrafts

  • Copolymer is used to protect prototype solar cells on spacecrafts.
  • Only 3 laboratories in the world can complete such research.
  • Russian scientists believe the switching effect clearly shows the future need for such application on spacecrafts.

Russian scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with other Russian institutions, completed research of the properties of a copolymer based on polyaryleneetherketones to assess the prospects of its application in space technology. The purpose of this study is to protect the electronics on a spacecraft, which is effected by the surrounding plasma. There are only three centers across the globe that have the necessary equipment and experts to successfully analyze the effects of electrification of materials for spacecraft in conditions close to its original state.

Block Copolymer film.

The three laboratories are: 

  1. The Russia HSE laboratory for Functional safety of spacecraft and systems.
  2. The US John Dennison laboratory at the University of Utah.
  3. The French Laboratory in Toulouse.

Polyaryleneetherketones (PAEK) or aromatic polyether-ketones are high heat-resistant aromatic polymers containing ether links and ketone groups in the main chain which are joined together by arylene groups. Copolymer films that are based on the polyarylene ketones are resistant to electrostatic discharges that occur under the influence of ionizing radiation and thus could protect the electronics of a spacecraft from failures.

As a result of its ionizing radiation, a charge accumulates in the dielectric materials of a spacecraft, and electrostatic discharges occur leading to electronics failures and, ultimately, the failure of the spacecraft itself.

Russian scientists were able to measure the conductive properties of the developed copolymer films based on polyarylene ether ketones; very thin aluminum electrodes were applied to these films by vacuum deposition.

The samples prepared in this way were placed in a vacuum chamber equipped with an electronic gun. By bombarding the films with electrons with an energy of 50,000 electron volts, the researchers measured the radiation conductivity that occurs in the polymer due to the creation of electron-hole pairs under the action of ionizing radiation. This parameter determines the efficiency of draining the accumulated charge. The dependence of the current passing through the film on the voltage at the electrodes was studied. The scientific results were published in a report entitled: Radiation-Induced Transient Currents in Films of Poly(arylene ether ketone) Including Phthalide Moiety.

The enhanced ability of polymers to remove the electric charge accumulated in them during experiments. Scientists were also interested in the presence of a switching effect in these films. It consists in the fact that in a strong electric field there is a sharp jump-like reversible transition of the polymer from a high-resistance state to a low-resistance one. In this state, the polymer conducts current well. Additionally, Russian scientists believe the switching effect clearly shows the future need for such application on the spacecrafts.

According to the researchers, the material itself is extremely promising, and only time and further experiments are needed to identify the switching effect.

Copolymer is used to protect prototype solar cells on spacecrafts. Other uses can include nanotechnology, nanolithography, photonics and controlled drug delivery.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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