New parts cleaning technique allows dust particles to fly
NASA’s Artemis missions aim to send astronauts to the moon by 2024. However, to be successful, they must solve the big problems caused by a tiny particle: dust.
The effects on the moon’s surface are crushed rocks from the moon that turn to dust for billions of years (SN: 01/17/19). The resulting particles are like “broken glasses,” says Mihály Horányi, a physicist at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This harmful material can damage the equipment when inhaled and even harm the health of astronauts (SN: 03/12/13). To make matters worse, solar radiation gives moon dust an electric charge, so it sticks to everything.
Horányi and his colleagues discovered a new technique to combat the static adhesion of moon dust by using a low-power electron beam to push mites away from surfaces. It complements existing approaches to the thorny problem, researchers reported online Aug. 8 in Acta Astronautica.
During the Apollo missions, astronauts relied on a low-tech system to remove moon dust from their spacesuits: brushes. However, such mechanical processes fail, due to the electrically charged nature of moon dust, to adhere to the nooks and crannies of the woven fabric of the spacesuit.
The newly described method uses the electrical properties of dust. An electron beam causes the dust to release electrons in the small spaces between the particles. Some of the negatively charged electrons are absorbed by the surrounding dust spots. Because charged particles repel each other, the resulting electric field “throws dust off the surface,” says Xu Wang, a physicist at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
“It’s a unique idea,” said Hiroyuki Kawamoto, a mechanical engineer from Waseda University in Tokyo, who was not involved in the new work. Kawamoto and his colleagues have developed their own dust control technologies, including an electrode layer that can be embedded in materials. When embedded in a spacesuit or on the surface of equipment, electrodes generate electrostatic forces and remove charged dust particles. Such systems are more complex than projecting an electron beam onto surfaces, Wang said. A possible lack of the simplest idea of a wire harness, according to Kawamoto, would require a robot or some other external means to steer it.
Another limitation of the electron beam is 15 to 25 percent of the remaining dust particles. Researchers aim to improve cleaning power. The team also sees the electron beam as one of many future space exploration techniques to be used to keep surfaces clean, says Horányi, in addition to costume design, other cleanings, and cleaning technologies. a Sun, even the habitat of the moon with mudrooms of moon dust.
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