NASA Awards Grant to RIT to Develop New Polymer Foam Packaging for Lunar Missions

Study will focus on portable life support systems

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has awarded Rochester Institute of Technology a contract for $101,237 for a six-month study to develop new polymer foam packaging materials for protecting life support systems on lunar missions. The project will be led by Changfeng Ge, professor in the RIT College of Applied Science and Technology and director of the American Packaging Corp. Center for Packaging Innovation, based in the college.

NASA scientists have been working on the project ‘Portable Life Support System Packaging Phase’ for some time. This award to RIT is part of Phase III. Ge will develop several new types of polymer packaging materials, specifically single uniform foam, layer-structured foam, composite foam and closed cell foam filled with light gas. He’ll also develop the manufacturing plan to produce the materials. The new materials will protect the astronaut’s life support system from the impact while working outside of lunar vehicles, taking soil samples on the moon, for example.

“The challenge is how to develop a commercially viable material that can meet the requirement of energy absorption under an extreme operating environment, from minus 67 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, to 167 degrees Fahrenheit above zero, and this material must also be able to withstand intense pressure cycles,” Ge says. Pressure cycles are rates to control and prevent strain on materials exposed to pressure changes.

“Although I have many years of experiences in developing packaging for different products, this project is very special to me as the performance environment is different,” Ge adds. “It is indeed a prestigious award from NASA. I am very excited about having this opportunity to develop a packaging system and the opportunity to work with NASA's scientists.”

John Glass, a graduate student in the RIT packaging science program and Zachary Loughery, an undergraduate student in mechanical engineering technology will assist Ge on the project. Representatives from NASA's Johnson Space Center expect to visit RIT and tour the facilities midway through the project.