Smart and Healing Materials for Inflatable Habitats and EVA Suits in Space
Inspired by the capacity of biological systems to intrinsically repair damage, we are synthesizing a new
class of self-healing polymers capable of regenerating functionality after material fatigue or failure.
The intended application of these materials is for protective materials enabling successful human
habitation in space. In this extreme setting, micrometeorites and orbital debris (MMOD) as well as
secondary ejecta can compromise the air barrier. Of particular concern are pinhole punctures that are
difficult to identify and repair. The objective of this research is to synthesize a self-healing polymer that
can be integrated into a composite capable of responding to environmental stress by automatically
repairing mechanical punctures. Such a composite is intended to provide resilient protection to humans
during extraterrestrial exploration and habitation. To accomplish this, we will utilize a multi-tiered
healing approach which includes mechanochemistry, dynamic covalent chemistry and fracture-induced
polymerization. The resulting materials will be subsequently characterized to understand and predict
their behavior under conditions specific to space applications.