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Radiation poisoning in astronauts could be a thing of the past

The threat of radiation poisoning could soon become a thing of the past for astronauts on spacewalks, after Australian scientists invented a super thin nanomaterial which protects surfaces from light and radiation.

Scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) have invented a new nanomaterial which can be adjusted to reflect visible and invisible light on demand, in a development which could further protect astronauts from the sun's radiation while in space.

The material is so thin that hundreds of layers at a time can be applied to any surface -- including space suits, and Dr. Mohsen Rahmani from the ANU said it could be used in a variety of different applications.

"Our invention has a lot of potential applications, such as protecting astronauts or satellites with an ultra-thin film that can be adjusted to reflect various dangerous ultraviolet or infrared radiation in different environments," Rahmani said in a statement released on Tuesday.

"Our technology significantly increases the resistance threshold against harmful radiation compared to today's technologies, which rely on absorbing radiation with thick filters."

Co-researcher Andrey Miroshnichenko said the nanomaterial could not only reflect invisible light such as infrared radiation, but it can block and transmit visible light as well, opening to door for use in architecture, such as in buildings, on windows and in stadiums.

"For instance, you could have a window that can turn into a mirror in a bathroom on demand, or control the amount of light passing through your house windows in different seasons," Miroshnichenko said.

Details of the team's invention were published in the Advanced Functional Materials magazine.

Xinhua / PNA