Graphene Flagship to test space applications
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Graphene Flagship to test space applications

Two experiments to test graphene’s viability for space applications are to take place this autumn.

The first experiment will observe if graphene-based coatings can improve efficiency in loop heat pipes, found in satellite cooling systems. The second will test how graphene could be used as a material for space sails. Both experiments are being carried out by the Graphene Flagship.

Professor Jari Kinaret, director of the Graphene Flagship, said: “These two projects exemplify the two-fold character of the graphene flagship: the loop heat pipe project is targeting a specific application, while the light sail project is firmly linked to basic research and builds upon the unique combination of properties that only graphene can offer.”

A large component of the loop heat pipe in satellites is the wick, typically constructed from porous metal. The experiment will see a number of wicks coated with different types of graphene-related materials to improve the heat pipes’ efficiency. The coated wicks will then be tested in a low-gravity parabolic flight.

Lucia Lombardi, a PhD researcher, said: “The idea is to use graphene to improve the thermal conductivity and the capillary pressure by growing a sponge in the pores of the wicks.”

The tests for space sails will be carried out by a group of students, who will use microgravity conditions in the ZARM Drop Tower based in Germany, to carry out their research.

By shining laser light on suspended graphene-membranes, the researchers aim to measure how much thrust can be generated.

Dr Andrea Ferrari, STO of the Graphene Flagship, said: “Space is the new frontier for the Graphene Flagship. These initial experiments will test the viability of graphene-enabled devices for space applications.”

Both experiments will launch between 6-16 November.