Joint electron-beam research grant aims at Mars - and the stars

July 27, 2004

Texas AM University research will contribute to future Mars missions thanks to a partnership between the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Dwight Look College of Engineering and NASA.

Dr. Suresh Pillai, director of the National Center for Electron Beam Food Research, and Dr. Lee Braby, a research professor in the department of nuclear engineering, received a $900,000 grant from NASA. The grant will be used to investigate how electron-beam irradiation can contribute to solar exploration.

The researchers are working with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory to examine how electron beam technology can sterilize spacecraft components.

"Deep space missions must be properly sterilized to distinguish between organisms brought from Earth and those that may be indigenous to other planetary bodies, such as Mars," Pillai said.

"Electron-beam irradiation is potentially a better solution than dry-heat sterilization, the key NASA-approved technique."

Pillai said dry-heat sterilization involves heating components at 110 C for at least 40 hours.

"Unfortunately, many components are heat sensitive and undergo deterioration making them incompatible with heat sterilization," he said.

The research will revolve around heat-sensitive materials such as low-temperature adhesives, polymers used in making lander balloons and printed circuit board materials. The focus will be on developing electron-beam technology for spacecraft materials and components.

"The proposed work will advance electron-beam sterilization technology to an operational level," Pillai said. "This will be a major advance towards adding a new and highly capable sterilization technique to the current limited NASA planetary protection tool set."

Dr. Mark McLellan, director of the Institute of Food Science and Engineering, said he welcomes the collaboration.

"It's a great partnership and success story for multi-disciplinary projects— the kind the institute strives to make happen."

Source: Texas A&M University

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Moonlighting molecules: Finding new uses for old enzymes

November 27, 2015

A collaboration between the University of Cambridge and MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, has led researchers to identify a potentially significant new application for a well-known ...

Four pre-Inca tombs found in Peru's Lima

November 27, 2015

Archaeologists in Peru have found four tombs that are more than 1,000 years old in a pyramid-shaped cemetery that now sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Lima, experts said.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.