Prototype II, Techtextil

For the Techtextil ‘Living in Space’ exhibition UNStudio and MDT-tex have created Prototype II, a modular shelter which envisions how we might one day live on the moon or on Mars.

The design is inspired by foldable structures and the need for lightweight and compact transport into space. In the Techtextil installation the self-supporting pavilion serves as a space in which guests can experience a trip to Mars in virtual reality – as represented by co-exhibitors the European Space Agency (ESA) and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).

The primary material component of the shelter is PTFE membrane. A textile of the highest performance, PTFE provides a durable, yet translucent and lightweight infill. As a textile PTFE provides more uses and formal flexibility than other architectural materials, such as composites or lightweight metals.  However, like any other textile, PTFE can be custom woven— with open weaves and colour integration—to match the needs of any cladding or pavilion project. When used in an architectural context, textiles must be combined with other materials to allow for a fixed shape and strong connections. As with its predecessor prototype, Eye_Beacon, Prototype II uses an aluminum and steel frame in each panel to accomplish this.

Both Eye_Beacon and Prototype II are prototypes for a multi-functional membrane structure system, called ‘Cirrus’, which is currently being co-developed by UNStudio and MDT-tex. The framed membrane strategy used in each of these prototypes will be further developed and optimised to serve as a façade, a second skin or a shelter structure.

PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene)
The PTFE fabric specially developed by MDT-tex differs to the usual stiff, hard and kink-sensitive membrane materials made of PTFE coated or laminated glass, aramid or polyester fibre fabrics, in that it consists of PTFE multifilaments, which are formed from a plurality of twisted continuous fibres.

PTFE fabric has great advantages over PVC-coated polyester fabrics. The high light transmittance of up to 40% in combination with its excellent self-cleaning properties correlates perfectly with material-specific requirements. The MDT-tex PTFE fabric has pronounced anti-adhesive properties (‘self-cleaning effect’), which means that no contaminants adhere to the fibres. Furthermore, the fabric is characterised by its low extensibility, high temperature resistance (from -200 to + 327° C) and very low surface tension (polarity).

PTFE (also known under the trade name Teflon) is extremely resistant to chemicals, weather, UV radiation and temperature influences. Furthermore it is non-flammable and self-extinguishing (B1-classification) and has very low electrical and thermal conductivity. These outstanding properties first attracted the attention

of aerospace engineers. Since then, Teflon and related materials have accompanied the history of American space travel – as cable insulation and heat protection tiles, or as a protective layer on space suits. In the Apollo missions, the litter bags for moon rock were coated with Teflon and PTFE is still used to protect various materials in space travel today.

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