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Proceedings Paper

Ras Labs-CASIS-ISS NL experiment for synthetic muscle returned to Earth: resistance to ionizing radiation
Author(s): Lenore Rasmussen; Leila N. Albers; Simone Rodriguez; Charles Gentile; Lewis D. Meixler; George Ascione; Robert Hitchner; James Taylor; Dan Hoffman; David Cylinder; Ramona Gaza; Leon Moy; Patrick S. Mark; Daniel L. Prillaman; Robert Nodarse; Michael J. Menegus; Jo Ann Ratto; Christopher T. Thellen; Danielle Froio; Logan Valenza; Catherine Poirier; Charles Sinkler; Dylan Corl; Surbhi Hablani; Tyler Fuerst; Sergio Gallucci; Whitney Blocher; Stephanie Liffland
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Paper Abstract

In anticipation of deep space travel, new materials are being explored to assist and relieve humans in dangerous environments, such as high radiation, extreme temperature, and extreme pressure. Ras Labs Synthetic Muscle™ – electroactive polymers (EAPs) that contract and expand at low voltages – which mimic the unique gentle-yet-strong nature of human tissue, is a potential asset to manned space travel through protective gear and human assist robotics and for unmanned space exploration through deep space. Gen 3 Synthetic Muscle™ was proven to be resistant to extreme temperatures, and there were indications that these materials would also be radiation resistant. The purpose of the Ras Labs-CASIS-ISS Experiment was to test the radiation resistivity of the third and fourth generation of these EAPs, as well as to make them even more radiation resistant. On Earth, exposure of the Generation 3 and Generation 4 EAPs to a Cs-137 radiation source for 47.8 hours with a total dose of 305.931 kRad of gamma radiation was performed at the US Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) at Princeton University, followed by pH, peroxide, Shore Hardness durometer, and electroactivity testing to determine the inherent radiation resistivity of these contractile EAPs, and to determine whether the EAPs could be made even more radiation resistant through the application of appropriate additives and coatings. The on Earth preliminary tests determined that selected Ras Labs EAPs were not only inherently radiation resistant, but with the appropriate coatings and additives, could be made even more radiation resistant. G-force testing to over 10 G’s was performed at US Army’s ARDEC Labs, with excellent results, in preparation for space flight to the International Space Station National Laboratory (ISS-NL). Selected samples of Generation 3 and Generation 4 Synthetic Muscle™, with various additives and coatings, were launched to the ISS-NL on April 14, 2015 on the SpaceX CRS-6 payload, and after 1+ year space exposure, returned to Earth on May 11, 2016 on SpaceX CRS-8. The results were very good, with the survival of all flown samples, which compared very well with the ground control samples. The most significant change observed was color change (yellowing) in some of the flown EAP samples, which in polymers can be indicative of accelerated aging. While the Synthetic Muscle Experiment was in orbit on the ISS-NL, photo events occur every 4 to 6 weeks to observe any changes, such as color, in the samples. Both the 32 flown EAP samples and 32 ground control samples were tested for pH, material integrity, durometer, and electroactivity, with very good results. The samples were also analyzed using stereo microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM)), and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS). Smart electroactive polymer based materials and actuators promise to transform prostheses and robots, allowing for the treatment, reduction, and prevention of debilitating injury and fatalities, and to further our exploration by land, sea, air, and space.

Paper Details

Date Published: 17 April 2017
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 10163, Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2017, 1016310 (17 April 2017); doi: 10.1117/12.2267716
Show Author Affiliations
Lenore Rasmussen, Ras Labs., LLC (United States)
Leila N. Albers, Ras Labs., LLC (United States)
Simone Rodriguez, Ras Labs., LLC (United States)
Charles Gentile, Princeton Univ. (United States)
Lewis D. Meixler, Princeton Univ. (United States)
George Ascione, Princeton Univ. (United States)
Robert Hitchner, Princeton Univ. (United States)
James Taylor, Princeton Univ. (United States)
Dan Hoffman, Princeton Univ. (United States)
David Cylinder, Nova Photonics, Inc. (United States)
Ramona Gaza, NASA Johnson Space Ctr. (United States)
Leon Moy, U.S. Army ARDEC, RDECOM (United States)
Patrick S. Mark, U.S. Army ARDEC, RDECOM (United States)
Daniel L. Prillaman, U.S. Army ARDEC, RDECOM (United States)
Robert Nodarse, U.S. Army ARDEC, RDECOM (United States)
Michael J. Menegus, U.S. Army ARDEC, RDECOM (United States)
Jo Ann Ratto, U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Ctr. (United States)
Christopher T. Thellen, U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Ctr. (United States)
Danielle Froio, U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Ctr. (United States)
Logan Valenza, Florida Institute of Technology (United States)
Catherine Poirier, Trinity College (United States)
Charles Sinkler, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (United States)
Dylan Corl, Raritan Valley Community College (United States)
Surbhi Hablani, Skidmore College (United States)
Tyler Fuerst, Clarkson Univ. (United States)
Sergio Gallucci, Clarkson Univ. (United States)
Whitney Blocher, Clarkson Univ. (United States)
Stephanie Liffland, The Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10163:
Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2017
Yoseph Bar-Cohen, Editor(s)

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