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Space Technology Research Grants

Molecular Dynamic Simulation of High Thermal Conductivity Synthetic Spider Silk for Thermal Management in Space

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Molecular Dynamic Simulation of High Thermal Conductivity Synthetic Spider Silk for Thermal Management in Space
Thermal management is crucial to space technology. Because electronic and other thermally sensitive materials will be located in an essentially airless environment, rejecting waste heat and maintaining thermal equilibrium between detached components becomes a limiting aspect to many space systems. Thermal links and other methods of maintaining isothermal conditions between discontinuous components are currently in use, however, the current technologies of metallic and carbon fiber thermal links suffer from high weight and low flexibility. This project will improve the current technology with genetically engineered synthetic spider silk that has the thermal conductivity of copper but superior flexibility, toughness, and strength. The thermal conductivity of natural spider silk is comparable to copper; however synthetic spider silk is yet to be developed to a similar high conductivity level. In order to optimize the fiber microstructure for high thermal conductivity, a fundamental understanding of the molecular-scale heat transfer in spider silk is required. The goal of this project is to develop a high conductivity synthetic spider silk as a thermal management material. The focus of my research is to use molecular dynamics to simulate the heat transfer in synthetic spider silks of different molecular structure to guide the selection of protein structures to optimize the thermal properties of the silk. More »

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