‘This material can cool itself under extreme temperatures’

LONDON: Scientists have designed a cutting-edge material, inspired by nature, that can regulate its own temperature, and could equally be used to treat burns and help space capsules withstand atmospheric forces.
A major challenge in material science is to work out how to regulate man-made material temperature as the human body can do in relationship to its environment, said Mark Alston, Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham in the UK.
The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, used a network of multiple microchannels with active flowing fluids (fluidics) as a method and proof of concept to develop a thermally-functional material made of a synthetic polymer.
The material is enhanced with precise control measures that can switch conductive states to manage its own temperature in relationship to its environment, researchers said.
“This bio-inspired engineering approach advances the structural assembly of polymers for use in advanced materials,” said Alston.
“Nature uses fluidics to regulate and manage temperature in mammals and in plants to absorb solar radiation through photosynthesis and this research used a leaf-like model to mimic this function in the polymer,” he said.
This approach will result in an advanced material that can absorb high solar radiation, as the human body can do, to cool itself autonomously whatever the environment it is placed in, researchers said.
A thermally-functional material could be used as a heat regulation system for burn injuries to cool skin surface temperature and monitor and improve healing, they said.
This kind of heat flow management, researchers said, could also prove invaluable in space flight where high solar loads can cause thermal stresses on the structural integrity of space capsules.
By regulation of the structural material temperature of the vehicle, this will not only advance structural properties but could also generate useful power.
This thermal energy could be removed from the re-circulated fluid system to be stored in a reservoir tank on board the capsule, researchers said.
Once captured, the energy could be converted into electrical energy or to heat water for use by the crew, they said. (AGENCIES)