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Boron Nanotubes

January 1, 2010

The main ingredient in clown makeup is being used to create a nano-material that could protect astronauts from solar radiation.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (Host):
Can clown makeup protect astronauts? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Boron nitride is used to make clown makeup. Now it’s being spun into microscopically fine, super-strong fibers that could be used for bulletproof vests and even spaceships. Michael Smith is staff scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center. He says astronauts going on long trips through space need to be protected from solar radiation.

MICHAEL SMITH (NASA Langley Research Center):
Boron is a perfect natural absorber of the thermal neutrons that will go through you body and turn your DNA into something else that you don’t want it to be.

HIRSHON:
The fibers are produced using a high energy laser at Jefferson Laboratory in Hampton, VA and spun into a super strong yarn. Smith thinks the nanotubes have countless uses.

SMITH:
It’s really a root technology. You’ve got our iron age your copper age—this could spawn a new age.

HIRSHON:
But first they’ll have to scale up production to make the fibers commercially viable. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.