Chemistry and space travel have always been inextricably linked. The first manned mission to the moon, in fact, was powered by combustion between hydrogen and oxygen. Today, advancements in chemical science hold great promise for space travel, both manned and unmanned, by improving everything from mechanics to food consumption.
How is chemistry propelling space travel into the next decade, century, and beyond? Here are some of the current projects Noah Technologies is paying close attention to.
The most visible area in which chemistry impacts space travel is in construction of the rockets themselves. From heat-resistant thermal coatings to fuel-conversion systems, chemists play an integral role in creating vehicles that actually fly into orbit. As the potential of commercial space travel looms large, advanced chemical materials such as carbon fiber are opening up worlds of possibilities for construction. Likewise, the search continues for highly-efficient, lightweight rocket propellants that aren’t prohibitively expensive. Ammonium nitrate, a common fertilizer component, is showing promise as a propellant material and some scientists are even experimenting with fission, not chemical combustion, for propulsion.
As researchers on earth look for ways to make the process of travel more sustainable, so too do rocket scientists. Chemical jet fuel is heavy and finite; perhaps the solution lies in hybridized rockets (or even completely nuclear-powered rockets, if you ask some.) Hybrid rocket engines combine the best qualities of both solid and liquid fuel engines and utilize a simple oxidizer like nitrous oxide for power. These technologies are hypothesized to be more stable and more homogenous than alternatives currently in-use.
Manned space travel presents its own unique set of challenges. Particularly for long missions lasting months or even years at a time, food, materials, and fuel are basic but critical concerns. Just this year, a researcher at Clemson University announced the development of a strain of yeast that converts human urine and carbon dioxide into omega-3 fatty acids; it’s an exciting discovery, and one that could be the first building block of space-made nutritional supplements critical for astronaut survival. The same process can also produce polymers, themselves useful for 3D construction of lost tools or other necessary equipment in-mission.
Humans are a long way from mastering space travel…we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of rocket technology and the constraints of time and matter in space. What’s almost more exciting for the chemists at Noah Technologies than the race to space itself is what happens when scientists get there. Dozens of important chemical laboratories are already active in space, working on everything from antidotes to chemical nerve agents to more efficient water purification processes.
Noah Tech is honored to work with astrochemists on a variety of sensitive projects. From supplying high-purity chemical compounds to working in tandem with researchers to propose chemical solutions to complex problems, our goal is always to improve the process of a project.
Want to find out more about how Noah Technologies is advancing space travel? Reach out to us today.