I've been trying to imagine a convenient future airlock for people on planets with little atmosphere (which is most of the bodies in the inner and outer solar system).
It feels like waiting 15-to-30 minutes each time you have to ingress or egress is a subtle, but substantial, pain.
Utility Fog, sometimes also called gray goo, is a metallic mesh made up of tiny (100 $\mu m$) grain-of-pollen shapes robots with multiple telescoping interlocking small arms. The robots as a network can change density and shape by telescoping arms in or out and letting go to grab a new partner. It was originally envisioned as a high-tech alternative to air bags.
My thought was that a super-fast airlock could do this during ingress :
- An extremely dense (minimal micropore) layer of utility fog forms just inside the inside door
- The utility fog expands, kind of like the gas inside of a piston, to fill the entire compartment.
- The super-dense region of utility fog moves like the piston of an engine from the inside door to the outside door, automatically adjusting its shape to allow the people and objects to pass through and pressing no harder on surfaces than 1 atmosphere.
- The inner door, which was vented, allows interior air to fill the gap behind the utility fog.
An entire airlock full of users passes through in seconds.
Is this feasible? Anything really important that I'm overlooking?
- Best practices allow standardization between suit and habitat pressure.
- Future technology allows semi-rigid suits that do not need to be over pressurized prior to opening the airlock
- This question is focused at negligible atmosphere environments, and retaining most (not necessarily even all) of the hab atmosphere. Keeping toxic gasses out is not a concern.
- Dust and other contaminants are taken care of by another system, or not taken care of at all.