A pinboard by
Kavya Manyapu

Ph.D. Candidate, University of North Dakota


Novel Technology using Carbon Nanotubes for dust mitigation of Spacesuits with Earth applications

Lunar dust proved to be troublesome during the Apollo moon missions impacting spacesuits, operations and other scientific and space hardware. The surface of the Moon is covered in fine dust - gray, powdery, abrasive and electrostatically charged which caused unforeseen problems that impacted mission operations. The charged powdery dust got into everything, stuck to surfaces, and substantially degraded the performance of spacesuits by abrading suit fabric and clogging seals. Overcoming lunar dust contamination has been identified by NASA and other space agencies as a key environmental factor to overcome for future long duration missions. The focus of this research is to develop an automated dust mitigation technique integrated into the spacesuit by developing a new technology using Carbon nanotube (CNT) fibers and specialized techniques embedded into the outer layer of the spacesuit. When energized using a multi-phase AC voltage signal, these CNTs repel and remove any dust coming into contact with the suit. While the research aims primarily towards spacesuit dust contamination, the technology developed in this research is versatile, and can be optimized to a wide range of applications with flexible surfaces – such as space and terrain applications for Mars, for asteroids, and even for dust-prone applications on earth such as medical equipment, solar panels etc. Several demonstrations conducted at NASA labs during the course of this research on both small-scale spacesuit materials and a scaled prototype has proved the viability of this new technology to repel lunar dust simulant, mars dust simulant and earth dust.


Lunar dust: The Hazard and Astronaut Exposure Risks

Abstract: This paper reviews the characterisation of lunar dust or regolith, the toxicity of the dust and associated health effects, the techniques for assessing the health risks from dust exposure and describes the measures used or being developed to mitigate exposure. Lunar dust is formed from micrometeorite impacts onto the Moon’s surface. The hypervelocity impacts result in communition and the formation of sharp and clingy agglutinates. The dust particles vary in size with the smallest being less than 10 μm. If the chemical reactive particles are deposited in the lungs, they may cause respiratory disease. During lunar exploration, the astronaut’s spacesuits will become contaminated with lunar dust. The dust will be released into the atmosphere when the suits are removed. The exposure risks to health will need to be assessed by relating to a permissible exposure limit. During the Apollo missions, the astronauts were exposed to lunar dust. Acute health effects from dust inhalation exposure included sore throat, sneezing and coughing. Long-term exposure to the dust may cause a more serious respiratory disease similar to silicosis. On future missions the methods used to mitigate exposure will include providing high air recirculation rates in the airlock, the use of a “Double Shell Spacesuit” so that contaminated spacesuits are removed before entering the airlock, the use of dust shields to prevent dust accumulating on surfaces, the use of high gradient magnetic separation to remove surface dust and the use of solar flux to sinter and melt the regolith around the spacecraft.

Pub.: 30 Oct '10, Pinned: 04 Jul '17

Estimate of safe human exposure levels for lunar dust based on comparative benchmark dose modeling.

Abstract: Brief exposures of Apollo astronauts to lunar dust occasionally elicited upper respiratory irritation; however, no limits were ever set for prolonged exposure to lunar dust. The United States and other space faring nations intend to return to the moon for extensive exploration within a few decades. In the meantime, habitats for that exploration, whether mobile or fixed, must be designed to limit human exposure to lunar dust to safe levels. Herein we estimate safe exposure limits for lunar dust collected during the Apollo 14 mission. We instilled three respirable-sized (∼2 μ mass median diameter) lunar dusts (two ground and one unground) and two standard dusts of widely different toxicities (quartz and TiO₂) into the respiratory system of rats. Rats in groups of six were given 0, 1, 2.5 or 7.5 mg of the test dust in a saline-Survanta® vehicle, and biochemical and cellular biomarkers of toxicity in lung lavage fluid were assayed 1 week and one month after instillation. By comparing the dose--response curves of sensitive biomarkers, we estimated safe exposure levels for astronauts and concluded that unground lunar dust and dust ground by two different methods were not toxicologically distinguishable. The safe exposure estimates were 1.3 ± 0.4 mg/m³ (jet-milled dust), 1.0 ± 0.5 mg/m³ (ball-milled dust) and 0.9 ± 0.3 mg/m³ (unground, natural dust). We estimate that 0.5-1 mg/m³ of lunar dust is safe for periodic human exposures during long stays in habitats on the lunar surface.

Pub.: 26 Apr '13, Pinned: 04 Jul '17

Estimating safe human exposure levels for lunar dust using benchmark dose modeling of data from inhalation studies in rats.

Abstract: The pulmonary toxicity of airborne lunar dust was assessed in rats exposed by nose-only inhalation to 0, 2.1, 6.8, 20.8 and 60.6 mg/m3 of respirable size lunar dust. Rats were exposed for 6 h/d, 5 d/week, for 4 weeks (120 h). Biomarkers of toxicity were assessed in bronchial alveolar lavage fluid (BALF) collected at 1 d, 1 week, 4 weeks or 13 weeks post-exposure for a total of 76 endpoints. Benchmark dose (BMD) analysis was conducted on endpoints that appeared to be sensitive to dose. The number of endpoints that met criteria for modeling was 30. This number was composed of 13 endpoints that produced data suitable for parametric analysis and 17 that produced non-normal data. Mean BMD values determined from models generated from non-normal data were lower but not significantly different from the mean BMD of models derived from normally distributed data. Thus BMDs ranged from a minimum of 10.4 (using the average BMD from all 30 modeled endpoints) to a maximum of 16.6 (using the average BMD from the most restricted set of models). This range of BMDs yields safe exposure estimate (SEE) values of 0.6 and 0.9 mg/m3, respectively, when BMDs are extrapolated to humans, using a species factor of 3 and extrapolated from a 1-month exposure to an anticipated 6-month lunar surface exposure. This estimate is very similar to a no-observable-adverse-effect-level (NOAEL) determined from the same studies (0.4 mg/m3) and a SEE derived from a study of rats that were intratracheally instilled with lunar dusts (0.5-1.0 mg/m3).

Pub.: 07 Dec '13, Pinned: 04 Jul '17