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What those old glaziers knew

01 November 2013

©WNS

Trial run: the Rover's camera is tested by Professor Barnes's team in the Atacama Desert in Chile, whose surface is similar to that of Mars

Trial run: the Rover's camera is tested by Professor Barnes's team in the Atacama Desert in Chile, whose surface is similar to that of Mars

TECHNOLOGY used in making medieval stained glass is now being applied to 21st-century space research.

Scientists want to ensure that the colour of images transmitted from a future spacecraft on Mars is true, to help identify scientific targets, but high ultra-violet radiation in the Martian atmosphere, which has little or no ozone, causes colours to fade when exposed to sunlight. Yet medieval church windows have been exposed to sunlight for centuries, but show little or no colour degradation.

Professor Dave Barnes, the project leader for a 3D panoramic camera on board the European Space Agency's ExoMars Rover mission to Mars in 2018, said that a solution to their problem came to light when glass-research experts at Aberystwyth University suggested stained glass. Experts at the university are now adding small pieces of stained-glass to the camera on the space ship.

Professor Barnes says: "The colour-centres in the camera are formed as a nanoparticle suspension within the glass, and that acts as an efficient UV blocker. This prevents chemical reactions that will change the colours." The glass pieces are each less than two inches square, just over half an inch thick, and weigh less than an ounce, the Professor said. "We had to go back to some old chemistry 'recipe' books to find out the traditional methods. I'm pretty sure stained glass has never been used on any Mars mission before."

 

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