Currently, lead and lead-based materials are used to fabricate shields not only for X-rays, but also for other types of radiation. With the growing environmental concern about the toxicity of lead, and the high costs associated with transporting heavy lead-based shields in spacecraft, alternatives are needed for fabricating X-ray shields that are less toxic and lighter.

Using nanotechnology, a lead-free, salt-impregnated polymer nanocomposite was developed that can serve as a lightweight shield against low-energy Xrays and possibly other high-energy radiation. The composite is lighter than the lead-based shields, while providing the same degree of shielding. To ensure optical transparency and light weight, nano-sized crystals of the metal salt were utilized.

The composite developed would be suitable for incorporation into protective clothing and gear for astronauts during NASA missions such as the Advanced Extravehicular Activity (EVA) program, as well as radiation shields for space stations, orbiters, landers, rovers, and habitats that house X-ray detectors and sensors.

This work was done by Ramachandran Radhakrishnan and Guru Rajan of Materials Modification, Inc. for Langley Research Center. LAR-17217-1