Anyone who owns a tire, toothbrush or water bottle knows how practical plastics are. Engineers know this, too. Plastics are inexpensive, strong and easy to make.

One application for plastics, however, is truly out of this world.

Plastics have enormous potential in space. It can cost $5,000 or more per pound to launch an object into orbit, according to Nature Portfolio. A lightweight material, plastics could theoretically replace some metals in space technology. This may also enable spacecraft to carry more fuel.

A major obstacle to this innovation is the extreme radiation present in space. Radiation can severely damage plastics. It’s a challenge that Ph.D. student Kazue Orikasa of FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing is taking up.

Read more at FIU News.