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Metallic Glass Ideal for Space Exploration Robots and NASA's Journey to Mars

Dec 05, 2016 04:53 AM EST

Space exploration amounts to getting bombarded with the harshest materials available in space therefore, robots and space instruments have to be built with the sturdiest materials on Earth. Continuous research led engineers to explore the use of metallic glass that seems to be ideal for NASA's upcoming Journey to Mars.

The tough metallic alloy material undergo a certain process that involves liquefying and sudden cooling to produce the materials that are said to be ideal for spacecraft, robotics and instruments to be used in space. A new research is currently exploring the metallic glass and its potential.

Based on the research the Bulk Metallic Glass (BMG) is an ideal material for space-based mission gears. Products made up of metallic glass that is bigger the 0.04 inches (1 mm) fall under the BMG category. But in order to produce a sturdy material such as the BMG, the metal has to be melted, this initiates the loss of structure in metals that will then be randomly arranged once the structure cools down.

 Rapid cooling of the metal will result in a disorganized structure. It has to be cooled down at about 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit per second in order to achieve the desired form, according to This is what technically transforms the material from metal to glass that makes a new structure called metallic glass.

The metallic glass materials make a lot of difference when it comes to building robots for space missions said NASA. The materials make it easier for the robots to turn and move smoothly and to stop abruptly in a smooth manner when asked to. Usually, there are jerks and shakes when using typical materials. The use of metallic glass might result to more accurate robotic movements. BMG makes for flexible, durable and cheaper robotic joints according to a report.

"Although BMGs have been explored for a long time, understanding how to design and implement them into structural hardware has proven elusive," Douglas Hofmann, an official studying metallic glass at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a press release. "[We] have finally put BMGs through the necessary testing to demonstrate their potential benefits for NASA spacecraft. These materials may be able to offer us solutions for mobility in harsh environments, like on Jupiter's moon Europa," Hofmann added.

The material is also considered ideal in space due to its low melting temperature rate. This makes it ideal for injection-molding technology. Also, BMGs are extremely heavy duty that it doesn't rust like some types of metals and it is also water-resistance. NASA says this material can work in both cold and dry temperatures that will make a great robot for space-based missions.


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