bobjengr, thanks for the feedback. I agree that composites will not be the only material used for structural applications, but they certainly have a lot to offer that metals don't. I'm still amazed that they've gotten tough enough to go to Jupiter.
Ann—very very interesting article.Composites, I feel, represent the future of material science.Of course, we will never "outgrow" conventional materials; i.e. steel, aluminum, etc but composites can provide strength to weight ratios remarkably beneficial to design engineers for exotic uses such as the JUNO unmanned program.I also thought about material science but decided on mechanical engineering due to the great number of directions you can go relative to professional life.
Scott, I'd bet you are right about the solar panels on Juno being massively ruggedized compared to their commercial cousins. OTOH, as I discovered during the reporting for my upcoming June feature article on Materials for Miniaturization, the materials for making solar junction box and connector materials are going through a sea-change of increased strength as they get smaller and must increase their flame retardance and electrical and impact resistance properties. Meanwhile, DN has published several articles on structural materials and fasteners for harsh environments, including fasteners http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=241288 coatings http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=237966 smart paint http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=238756 and adhesives http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=237011
Ann, always enjoy information on the materials science side of things. If I could magically turn back the clock to my 20's I probably would have focused on that area for my degree. It would be interesting to see more articles about materials designed specifically for harsh or difficult environments. I'll bet those solar panels mentioned in the article are only distant cousins to the PV cells found in the consumer market for example.
On return missions to earth, I wonder if there is danger of introducing new materials or elements or even viruses that could interact negatively with our environment. I wonder if there is a testing/incubation procedure to examine materials before they are openly exposed to earth and humans.
I agree, Ann, that returning a craft to Earth would be tricky. In addition to the technology needed to power the craft, gather and transmit data, the craft would also have to include materials to keep the craft from burning up as it re-enters Earth's atmosphere.
Beth, I had the same thought also because of last week's post and discussion about space junk. And I think it would be excellent to be able to check out the materials' performance under such harsh conditions. But recovery and/or return cost a lot and isn't simple to do.
naperlou, I was amazed that Juno is powered by solar panels. Aside from their size, solar power technology has obviously gotten a lot more powerful and power-dense if we can power a satellite with it for all that time.
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Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.