Nature-Inspired, Multi-Functional Surface Coatings for Sustainable Life Support in Space and on Earth

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Chemical Engineering

Abstract

Currently, existing water recovery, microbial contamination mechanisms, and ionizing radiation protection are inadequate for future long duration spaceflight missions to Moon, Mars, and beyond. These factors threaten the integrity of materials, bio-regenerative life support systems, but more importantly, the health of astronauts, and thus, finding new approaches for sustainable life support is crucial. In this research, we present the design of a nature-inspired, multi-functional surface coating, which absorbs excess atmospheric moisture produced by astronauts' indoors activities. Further, the proposed surface coating could lead to the transport of microbes and could enhance radiation shielding. Inspired by nature, it consists of artificially designed hollow microstructures, which are fabricated by a high-resolution additive manufacturing technique. Aim of this research is to improve passive systems, and therefore, reducing the energy consumption of applications in space and on Earth.

Publications

10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R512400/1 01/10/2017 31/03/2022
1926173 Studentship EP/R512400/1 02/10/2017 31/12/2021 Malica Schmidt
 
Title "Aquaphile", Gravity Related Image, 26th ELGRA & 14th ITTW conference in Granada, Spain 
Description The image "Aquaphile" was displayed during the "26th European Low Gravity Association (ELGRA) & 14th International Two-Phase Systems For Space and Ground Applications (ITTW)" Conference in Granada, Spain in September 2019. 
Type Of Art Image 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact During the display at the conference, a competition took place, where the image achieved an award (2nd place). 
URL https://en.elgra2019.com/image_contest
 
Title "Bio-Integrated Design", Biodesign Here Now, Open Cell in London, UK 
Description "Bio-Integrated Design" was displayed during the Biodesign Here Now exhibition at the Open Cell in London, UK, in September 2018. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The exhibition was seen by visitors at the Open Cell in London, UK. 
URL https://www.opencell.bio/biodesignherenow/2018
 
Title "BioTA Lab", Collapse: Climate, Cities & Cultures, New York University in NYC, US 
Description The image was displayed during the "Collapse: Climate, Cities & Cultures" exhibition at New York University in New York City, US in June 2018. 
Type Of Art Image 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The exhibition was seen by visitors of the exhibition at the New York University in New York City, US. 
 
Title "Bio_inspired Engineering, Bio-Integrated Design", La Fabrique Du Vivant, Mutations / creations 3, Centre Pompidou in Paris, France 
Description The video was displayed during the "La Fabrique Du Vivant, Mutations / creations 3" exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France from February to April 2019. The video part presented related to this research was on the nature-inspired, micro-printed surface consisting of nature inspired microstructures for humidity control. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact The video was seen by visitors of the exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France. 
URL https://www.centrepompidou.fr/cpv/agenda/event.action?param.id=FR_R-0e1ca28a3e1128d624b2d8375beead0&...
 
Title "Elixir of Life", Research Images as Art / Art Images as Research at UCL in London, UK 
Description The image "Elixir of Life" was displayed during the "Research Images as Art / Art Images as Research" exhibition at UCL in London, UK in May 2019. 
Type Of Art Image 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact This image won the People's Choice Award and was shown multiple times, for example as the front cover of the centre's leaflet, at the departmental instagram account etc. 
URL https://www.grad.ucl.ac.uk/comp/2018-2019/research-images-competition/
 
Title Front cover design for Energy and Environmental Science Journal 
Description CNIE PhD Student, Malica Schmidt, designed the front cover image for the leading journal, Energy & Environmental Science (impact factor =29.5). 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The image was shared to all members of the Energy & Environmental Science journal 
URL http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2018/ee/c8ee90001a#!divAbstract
 
Description Microgravity Research and Space Microbiology Collaboration with German Aerospace Centre (DLR) 
Organisation German Aerospace Centre (DLR)
Country Germany 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The collaboration with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) was established to provide microgravity research for the current project. A successful parabolic flight proposal to simulate microgravity was written collaboratively, which will take place at the 35th DLR Parabolic Flight Campaign in June/July 2020. For this, the researcher is in continuous contact with engineers from the parabolic flight company, Novespace, and visited the site in Bordeaux, France, in December 2019. Additionally, the researcher visited the DLR and the European Space Agency (ESA) in April 2019 in Cologne, presented to the 19th Gravimeeting Congress in Erlangen, Germany, in December 2019, and will be an official guest researcher at DLR from 1st April - 31st December 2020, which allows her to access the facilities in Cologne, Germany. There will be another trip to Cologne in April this year for a medical assessment and meetings.
Collaborator Contribution The DLR is funding the parabolic flight, the required medical document, and are contributing towards the travel expenses in Bordeaux. In addition, regular meetings take place vial call and twice face-to face in Cologne.
Impact There will be outputs and outcomes after the parabolic flight. This collaboration is highly multi-disciplinary between Chemical Engineering (the researcher and supervisors from UCL) and Space Microbiology (DLR).
Start Year 2019
 
Description Microgravity Research with European Space Agency (ESA) 
Organisation European Space Agency
Department European Astronaut Centre (EAC)
Country Germany 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) was established to provide microgravity research for the current project. A successful parabolic flight proposal to simulate microgravity was written collaboratively, which will take place at the 35th DLR Parabolic Flight Campaign in June/July 2020. For this, the researcher is in continuous contact with engineers from the parabolic flight company, Novespace, and visited the site in Bordeaux, France, in December 2019. Additionally, the researcher visited the European Space Agency (ESA) and the DLR in April 2019 in Cologne, presented to the 19th Gravimeeting Congress in Erlangen, Germany, in December 2019, and will be an official guest researcher at DLR from 1st April - 31st December 2020, which allows her to access the facilities in Cologne, Germany. There will be another trip to Cologne in April this year for a medical assessment and meetings.
Collaborator Contribution The European Astronaut Centre (EAC) supports the parabolic flight in a scientific and technical support capacity including two face-to-face meetings in Cologne.
Impact There will be outputs and outcomes after the parabolic flight. This collaboration is highly multi-disciplinary between Chemical Engineering (the researcher and supervisors from UCL) and the European Astronaut Centre (EAC).
Start Year 2019
 
Description 19th German Aerospace Centre (DLR) Biology Gravimeeting in Erlangen, Germany 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact About 100 researcher participated in the Gravimeeting Congress in Erlangen with the common topic on microgravity research. The researcher participated as it was organised by the Biology department from the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), which funds the parabolic flight campaign in June/July 2020 and gave an interesting multi-disciplinary aspect to the subject area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description 26th European Low Gravity Association (ELGRA) & 14th International Two-Phase Systems for Space and Ground Applications (ITTW) Conference in Granada, Spain 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The 26th European Low Gravity Association (ELGRA) conference was held jointly with the 14th International Conference on Two-Phase Systems for Space and Ground Applications (ITTW) in Granada, Spain and included more than 200 oral presentations and plenary talks in celebration of ELGRA's 40th anniversary. ELGRA is a non-profit international society devoted to the promotion of scientific research under various gravity conditions in Europe. During the conference, the researcher received 2 awards, first being the announcement of the Best Oral Presentation in physical sciences and the second, the prize for the 2nd best Gravity Related Image "Aquaphile" (see awards section), which increased interest in the related subject.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.elgra2019.com
 
Description Architects Underground, Royal Institute of Brittish Architects (RIBA), London, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Architects Underground is a multi-disciplinary idea of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) with people ranging from architecture, design, art, robotics, and more. This presentation occurred in between one from an Architecture company on Nature inspired Architecture.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.architecture.com/whats-on/the-architects-underground
 
Description ECI Nature-Inspired Engineering Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact This first ECI Conference on Nature-Inspired Engineering will bring together practitioners and researchers from academia, national laboratories and industry, with interest in nature-inspired solutions for engineering. Nature-Inspired Engineering (NIE) is the application of fundamental scientific mechanisms, underpinning desirable properties observed in nature (e.g. resilience, scalability, efficiency), to inform the design of advanced technological solutions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description EPSRC Grand Challenges Summit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The Global Grand Challenges Summit 2019 was the launch of a second series of summits jointly hosted by the UK Royal Academy of Engineering, the US National Academy of Engineering and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, inspired by the 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering. The Summit took place on 16-18 September 2019 in London, at the Southbank Centre's wonderful Queen Elizabeth Hall, with 900 of the next generation's engineers, researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs, and policymakers in attendance.

EPSRC hosted an evening event as part of the Summit, entitled EPSRC Engineering Research for Grand Challenges, and will be showcasing a selection of their over £50 million investment into research which tackles the grand challenges facing our future.

As part of the EPSRC's evening exhibition on Tuesday 17th September, CNIE staff and students had a display to showcase the EPSRC "Frontier Engineering" Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering (CNIE).

The exhibition ran from 6.30pm to 9.30pm at the Royal Festival Hall, Weston Roof Pavilion. Halan Mohamed, Sasank Bethapudi, Nazanin Owji & Malica Schmidt all exhibited their work at the summit.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.raeng.org.uk/events/events-programme/2019/september/global-grand-challenges-2019-recepti...
 
Description German Aerospace Centre (DLR), Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Cologne, Germany 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Regular presentations and seminars for the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and the European Space Agency (ESA) in Cologne, Germany. They reported increased interest in the subject, which sparked a collaboration (see the section on collaboration) and technically support that continues since then.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
 
Description Industrial meetings, Foster+Partners, P+Studio 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Regular meetings happen with our official EPSRC industrial project partners StudioP+ and Foster+Partners, who technically support the project from the industrial perspective and give feedback.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019,2020
 
Description Nature-Inspired Solutions Special Interest Group Meet Industry Challenges, Knowledge Transfer Network, London, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN - part of Innovate UK) has established a new UK Special Interest Group (SIG), bringing together solution providers, academics and industry partners that could benefit from Nature Inspired Solutions. The event "Nature Inspired Solutions Meet Industry Challenges" sold out within an hour and over 150 people joined the webcast. The webcast was recorded and can be viewed on Youtube.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description UK Falling Walls Lab, Springer Nature, London, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The researcher participated at the Falling Walls Lab hosted by Springer Nature, a platform that enables the next generation of problem solvers and innovators to showcase their ground-breaking research and initiatives on the national and global stage. Important is to present the research in just 3 Minutes to a broad audience. The researcher was chosen among the last 20 in the UK and received a participation certificate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://falling-walls.com/lab/