In February 2020 an Irish company will showcase to the world its innovative use of burnt bone charcoal. ENBIO has developed a use for charred bone with its unique product Solarblack. This product will bring heatshields for spacecraft to another level. ESA’s Solar Orbiter is due to launch on February 5th. Bones in space – Solarblack high technology for the next decade.
The application of Solarblack to heatshields is for the thermal protection of spacecraft working in the harsh environs of space. Yes, the Solar Orbiter space probe will soon be on its way to study the sun. Its duty is to inform us more fully about the origins of spaceweather. The mission will to being a manmade probe closer to our star than ever before.
The word Solarblack suggest bright and dark. The brightest thing you can think of i.e. the Sun and the darkest colour of all, pure black. This product is a Thermo optical coating, next-generation protection for spacecraft heat shields.The technology developed by ENBIO is called CoBlast. This is a method in which the thermal layer is bonded to the metal of the heat shield. The Solarblack layer has been extensivly tested and refined. The process used by ENBIO enables the heat shield layer to become one with the titanium metal used. Treated in this way the shield can withstand temperatures of up to 520 degrees Celsius. It can both absorb this heat and then radiate it back into space. You can read more about CoBlast here
Solarblack is, therefore, a kind of heat neutraliser, protecting Solar Obiter and its instruments as it observes by the sun at a distance of 42 million kilometres (26 Million miles) It is incredible that bone can be repurposed, to help us understand the star that gave birth to our solar system long before cows and people existed.
In my drawings, there cannot be a black pastel that is black enough for me to accept. There must be a bit of a cavewoman in me because I am so particular about the depth of the black. Way back in prehistoric times cavemen or women used charred animal bones to make their drawings on the stone walls around them. Many stone age cave drawings still exist today a testament to the quality of the pigment used and the intent of the artists. Bone black is a pigment created from the charring of animal bones. Rembrandt and other masters used bone black pigment in their work. Intense black such as this gives teriffic depth to a painting. ENBIO and its Solarblack thermal skin will help give solar knowledge a new deph of understanding and make its own very different mark in the near future.
During my 2019 Science Week drawing workshops, I occasionally mentioned Solar Orbiter. I told the kids about the ingredients in the product. They loved the idea of bones helping a space mission. Kids love anything even slightly macabre, odd or out of the ordinary. Interest was probed, so a drawing workshop around the mission will develop during 2020.