Kazue Orikasa ’21 conducted innovative studies at one of NASA’s most prominent scientific hubs.
It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to ship one pound of matter into orbit. FIU Ph.D. student Kazue Orikasa is leading cutting-edge research to help NASA get the most out of every launch.
Orikasa is researching how plastics might be able to replace heavier materials, such as metals, in space technology. If successful, the findings could significantly reduce the expenses of launches. Her research is supported by a NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities (NSTGRO) Research Fellowship.
One challenge is figuring out how the plastics could be made strong enough to withstand the harsh conditions of space. Seeking solutions, she travelled to NASA’s Langley Research Center earlier this year.
Orikasa caught up with FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing to discuss her experience.
What exactly is a Visiting Technologist Experience?
A Visiting Technology Experience is essentially an internship that we do as NASA Research Fellows. I spent 10 weeks at NASA Langley Research Center working on my research and collaborating with scientists and engineers there.
What did you do while you were there?
So, my project is about combining super-small, strong, heat-conducting, and radiation shielding materials known as nanomaterials with plastics to create a lightweight, ultra-strong composite material. This summer, I created samples of these materials and brought them to NASA Langley Research Center to test them for radiation shielding. They have highly advanced radiation labs there that allowed me to obtain a close replication of what radiation is like in space.
What did you find?
We found that the addition of nanomaterials into polymers improved their radiation shielding properties! This comes in addition to successful tests we have run at FIU to see how thermally stable these materials are and how strong they are.
What were some of the coolest things about being at NASA Langley?
As a researcher, it is so impressive to see the amount of instruments that they have. They have every instrument you can imagine for processing or characterizing materials. It was also amazing to see so many people working on these technical problems. I got to see how different material scientists plan their research and approach their work, which was very valuable.
And then there were so many other cool things. I got to see where Neil Armstrong practiced for landing on the moon. NASA Langley Research Center was just a great place to be.
To learn more about Orikasa’s research, check out her feature on FIU News.