A material, inspired by nature, can regulate its own temperature and could be used to treat burns and help space capsules withstand atmospheric forces. The research 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. The bio-inspired engineering approach advances the structural assembly of polymers for use in advanced materials. The research used a leaf-like model to mimic this function in the polymer.

The advanced material can absorb high solar radiation, as the human body can do, to cool itself autonomously regardless of the environment. 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.

This kind of heat flow management could also be used in spaceflight 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 recirculated fluid system to be stored in a reservoir tank onboard the capsule. Once captured, the energy could be converted into electrical energy or to heat water for use by the crew.

For more information, contact Dr. Mark Alston, Faculty of Engineering, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; +44 0115 7487170.

Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the January, 2019 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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