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Maybe I'm wrong, but flexible solids like rubber have always struck me as something that wouldn't hold up long in a vacuum, or exposed to high radiation, or through big thermal cycling. What sorts of materials are used for flexible things like seals or hoses? I'm interested in all the things that engineers normally do with flexible materials that retain their shape on Earth, all the soft plastics and rubber? Do they need special treatment?

Is silicone an option? In modelling a distant future on the moon, it seemed like it at least has the advantage of being largely composed of elements the moon has.

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you interested in flexible hoses as well? $\endgroup$ Apr 13 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ Related: space.stackexchange.com/q/43450/6944 $\endgroup$ Apr 13 at 21:56
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble Yeah, flexible hoses are a perfect example. I'm interested in any application where a flexible material really is what makes sense. In fact I'm going to edit that into the question - it's better than what I put. $\endgroup$
    – kim holder
    Apr 13 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ I'd imagine some research into the ISS ammonia coolant used in the solar power system will give at least some guidance for vacuum and thermal environment, radiation, too. I realize that it's space, not lunar, but there are similarities. yellowdragonblogdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/…. I can't tell if there's detail about the ammonia transport hose construction, though. $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 0:47
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The common theme seems to be that the flexible materials are layered with the different layers performing specific functions.

  • For devices that hold pressure (spacesuits, hoses, modules like BEAM) a pressure retaining layer of stainless steel, rubber or Teflon is covered with protection layers of Beta cloth, Kevlar, or stainless steel weave

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The effects of AO, UV and electron particle radiation, and vacuum on the properties of these three elastomers were examined....

The conclusion was that some of the silicone compounds tested were ok; the main problem seemed to be atomic oxygen (AO), which wouldn't be an issue for Lunar applications.

Additional Sources not previously linked -

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    $\begingroup$ These look like great references. I'll look them over. It's good to know there are a few options, but it would still be nice if silicone could largely be used, I think, for our scenario. Thank you. $\endgroup$
    – kim holder
    Apr 13 at 23:02

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