The art of origami has been a longstanding tradition of Japanese culture for thousands of years. At first glance, it might seem inconceivable that this ancient form of craftwork could become the basis of a potentially groundbreaking advancement in aerospace satellite technology. That’s now the case at Brigham Young University, where this coveted art form helped inspire a revolutionary method of satellite maintenance.
NASA scientist Vivek Dwivedi has developed a retractable satellite radiator with the intention of using it to make these orbital devices adapt more accordingly to the volatile temperate conditions in outer space. This new breakthrough primarily pertains to the CubeSats, which are significantly smaller crafts that cost less than traditional satellites to construct and launch. Since older models have preset dimensions for their heating and cooling systems, it’s led to previously insurmountable issues of systems overheating or freezing from the hostile temperate conditions these crafts face when in orbit.
Dwivedi’s design features a radiator that can shapeshift accordingly to any temperate fluctuations that may occur. One of the ways this is achieved is from the radiator’s 3D diamond-shaped surface pattern and V-shaped grooves, whose depth controls how much heat can be emitted. More heat can be absorbed if the folds are deeper, whereas a flatter surface will reduce the radiator’s amount of intake.
“Origami allows you to change the depth of these cavities in real time, thereby changing the heat loss from a surface in real time,” Dwivedi said. “This approach has the potential to be a game-changer in thermal design. Our goal is to replace traditional radiators with dynamic ones, period.”
To further assure the radiator’s abilities to willfully maintain temperature control from this concept model, Dwivedi is collaborating with Raymond Adomaitis of the University at Maryland to apply a thin coating made from vanadium oxide, along with atom-thin layers of silver and titanium. Since this compound has shown it’s capable of transitioning from a semiconductor to a solid metal when reaching temperatures around 154 degrees Fahrenheit, the shift increases vanadium oxide’s emissivity. In an effort to lower the transition temperature, these two scientists will apply the microscopically thin layers of silver and titanium through a process called atomic layer deposition (ALD). Combining these two technological components will help create a more compact and efficient radiator that can be easily applied onto the increasingly popular CubeSats, which are generally just inches in length on each side. Through this process, atomically-thin layers of materials can be easily applied onto complex surfaces like the diamond-shaped ridges and triangular grooves Dwivedi’s radiator contains.
“The combination of origami and a vanadium-oxide based coating would be the first time two different variable emissivity devices have been combined into one structure,” says Brian Iverson, an assistant professor at Brigham Young University, who has partnered with Dwivedi in his efforts to further perfect his origami-inspired design. “Such a radiator could be easily attached to any spacecraft surface where heat needed to be rejected.”
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense