IT WAS inspired by cavemen but now a groundbreaking Irish technology is heading into space.
The technique inspired by a pigment used to make prehistoric cave paintings will soon protect space equipment on a groundbreaking mission to the sun.
Developed by UCD-based business Enbio, the technology is being used on the outer surface of the European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter craft.
The pigment is called 'Solar Black', a type of black calcium phosphate processed from burnt bone charcoal. It retains its properties under intense conditions, even over thousands of years.
Due for launch in 2017, Solar Orbiter will take high-resolution pictures of the sun from as close as 42 million kilometres away – just one-quarter of the star's distance to Earth.
At such a close distance, the spacecraft needs protection from the sun's powerful rays. The mission will endure 13 times the intensity of normal sunlight and temperatures as high as 520°C.
Enbio's technique uses the same pigment that our ancestors once used to make prehistoric cave paintings.
Called 'CoBlast', the technology was invented by Enbio founder John O'Donoghue.