Alfred University News

Group from Alfred University among authors of paper on 3D-printed ceramics on International Space Station

A group of Alfred University alumni, faculty and staff, and students contributed to a recently-published article in the American Ceramic Society (ACerS) Bulletin, which discusses the analysis of 3D-printed ceramic materials that spent several months aboard exposed to the outer space environment aboard the International Space Station.

In Fall 2019, ceramic materials 3D printed at Alfred University were transported on a Northrop Gruman Cygnus rocket to the International Space station, where they spent 260 days exposed to the outer space environment aboard the Sidus Space External Flight Test Platform. The materials were returned to Alfred University in Spring 2021, where researchers used a transmission electron microscope (TEM) to analyze the materials to determine the effect the space environment had on them.

The article, “3D-printed ceramics after ISS spaceflight,” appeared in the May ACerS Bulletin and discusses researchers’ findings. It was co-authored by Alfred University faculty Xingwu Wang, professor of electrical engineering, and Kun Wang, assistant professor of materials science and engineering; Darren Stohr ’92 (ceramic engineering), PhD ’06 (ceramic engineering), scanning electron microscopist in Alfred University’s Inamori School of Engineering; and Alexander Bailey, an Alfred University graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. Ryan Jeffrey, a mechanical engineer with Sidus Space, also contributed to the article.

Xingwu Wang explained that high levels of radiation can negatively impact the strength and durability of ceramic materials exposed to the space environment. “That’s the reason for this study — to determine how to form materials that won’t be damaged by the radiation” in space, he said.

The research will lead to scientists finding ways to effectively 3D-print ceramic components which will someday be used to establish exploratory bases on the moon or on Mars. This was outlined in an August 2018 ACerS Bulletin article, “To Infinity and Beyond: Outer Space Applications of 3-D Ceramics Printed Via Ink Jet Methods.” Xingwu Wang was among that paper’s authors.