NASA's Electrostatic Approach to Dust Management

Posted by Diversitech News on Dec 20, 2023 9:11:24 AM

NASA’s Electrostatic Approach to Dust Management Could Have Implications That Are Out of This World 

DiversitechNASANASA, the renowned space agency, planned a trip to Mars. Now that’s a job easier said than done, but we are talking about the smartest space exploration team on planet earth.

There are a vast array of challenges astronauts encounter as they plan, prepare for, and launch a spacecraft beyond our blue skies into the outer limits. The movie, Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock, comes to mind as I imagine the endless number of things that can go wrong and cause the best laid plans to spiral out of control.

We just don't imagine dust management to be one of them. But it is. 

Pack Light and Live Off the Land

Without question, cutting-edge technologies are required to make a successful journey to Mars. Space explorers certainly face steep challenges as they land on and walk the surface of the Red Planet. Think Arnold Swartzenegger in the movie, Total Recall, when he was suffocating on Mars.

Any good explorer, hiker, or mountaineer will tell you that if you plan to make a long journey, you’ve got to pack light and live off the land.

It’s really no different for NASA space travelers. When planning their trip to Mars, they needed to be able to utilize precious commodities, like oxygen, water, and methane that could be gleaned from the plentiful carbon dioxide available in the Martian atmosphere. They take the concept, “Live off the land” to a whole new level - literally.

However, for space explorers, they call this concept ‘in-situ resource utilization,’ or ISRU. This is the practice of harvesting and relying on available raw materials as astronauts visit deep-space destinations.

To make this possible on the Red Planet, scientists needed to solve the problem of dust. So the expert scientists at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida developed a solution.




Dust Management Services Requested…from Mars?!

If you have allergies and have ever looked up at the stars on a clear night and imagined enjoying just one day free from pollen, dust, and other allergens by relocating to Mars, I hate to burst your bubble, but outer space is an absolute dust bowl.

Seriously, ‘stardust’ is not just some metaphor for good vibes and happy feelings - its real dust. And it acts just like earth dust. It clogs up everything.

Spacecrafts, whether orbiting celestial bodies or exploring distant planets, are exposed to a variety of environmental material, including space dust.

While it’s unclear whether “space dust” gives the same superpowers that kryptonite apparently gave to Clark Kent, it is crystal clear that this dust causes spacecraft malfunctions. And when you're lightyears away from home, you cannot just call roadside assistance for help.

This cosmic dust, composed of tiny particles, can adhere to surfaces and accumulate over time. The impact of dust accumulation on spacecraft can range from impaired solar panel efficiency to compromised scientific instrument performance. As such, dust management is critical for the longevity and success of space missions.

Lead scientist, Dr. Carlos Calle, and research physicist, Jay Phillips, of the center’s Electrostatics and Surface Physics Laboratory, developed an electrostatic precipitator to help solve the dust problem.


Book a Complimentary Call to Discuss Your Unique Dust Management Needs Today:



Cosmic Dust Effects on Human Health

Unlike the movie, Invasion (2007), where one of the characters pricked his finger on a small chunk of an asteroid and was taken over by an alien, cosmic dust - or dust in outer space - generally does not pose a direct health risk to humans the way that dust on Earth might.

Dust management is needed, more so, for the impacts it has on the surfaces and normal functions of spacecraft and the instruments in them.

Electrostatic Dust Management (EDM) for ‘High’ Powered Cleaning

Dust collection on the surfaces of spacecraft can have significant implications for mission success. NASA has developed an Electrostatic Dust Management (EDM) system that leverages the power of electrostatic forces to actively repel and remove dust particles from critical surfaces and mitigate the adverse effects of dust on space missions.

This groundbreaking technology represents a significant step forward in enhancing the reliability and efficiency of space exploration missions.

According to an article on this topic written on NASA’s website, “An electrostatic precipitator works by capturing the fine dust from a gas stream while it travels between a pair of high-voltage electrodes. The electrodes induce an electrostatic charge on the dust particles that causes them to migrate to an oppositely charged electrode.”

Get Your Head Out of the ‘Clouds’ and Get Back to Work

Electrostatic precipitation technology is not just something NASA pioneered for dust management in space exploration. This and similar technology has powered industrial dust collector products for years.

That’s how Diversitech has been cleaning hazardous dust, fumes, and particles from industrial and manufacturing environments since 1984, for industries including:

  • Welding & Robotic Welding 
  • Grinding & Debugging 
  • Laser & Plasma Cutting
  • Sanding & Finishing 
  • Painting & Coating 
  • Soldering & Brazing 
  • and many other air purification applications

NASA's Electrostatic Dust Management solution represents a paradigm shift in addressing the challenges posed by dust in the unforgiving environment of space.

But when you come down out of the clouds, you’ll see that the cutting-edge engineers and the team at Diversitech have been designing products that clean the air and protect people from hazardous elements since E.T. phoned home.

For manufacturing companies that involve processes like welding, sanding, grinding, and deburring various materials (primarily metals), the risk of hazardous air pollutants being produced, as a byproduct, is high.

But the good news is that Diversitech offers a broad range of dust management solutions to filter all these pollutants from the air, thereby saving mankind - literally. Our OSHA compliant products include booths, air cleaners, blowers, tables, stations, extractors, and collectors.



Book a Complimentary Call to Discuss Your Unique Dust Management Needs Today:





Topics: dust management