Graphene Flagship researchers are preparing to collaborate with the European Space Agency (ESA) to test graphene technologies for space applications.
Two teams of researchers will explore the benefits of graphene as a light-propulsion material in solar sails, and as a smart coating in loop heat pipes for satellites.
Both experiments will be performed in microgravity conditions to simulate the extreme conditions in space. The solar sails will float in microgravity in a drop tower experiment, while the team investigating heat pipes will experience weightlessness on-board the parabolic flight.
The Graphene Flagship, funded by the Horizon 2020 Programme, is a pan-European research consortium committed to bringing graphene technologies through research laboratories to mature applications.
Graphene, the single-atom thick carbon sheet, is promising for a range of applications thanks to its excellent electrical, mechanical and thermal properties.
To test the graphene-coated wicks in microgravity conditions, the researchers will take part in low-gravity parabolic flights operated by ESA in partnership with Novespace.
Dr Meganne Christian, a researcher at the National Research Council of Italy (CNR), said: “Getting to see these materials that we’ve been working on for so long, finally work in the conditions that we want them to is really exciting.”
The experiment is a collaboration between Graphene Flagship partners at the Microgravity Research Centre, Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium; the Cambridge Graphene Centre, University of Cambridge, UK; Institute for Organic Synthesis and Photoreactivity and Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems, CNR, Italy; and Leonardo Spa, Italy, a global leader in aerospace, operating in space systems and high-tech instrument manufacturing and in the management of launch and in-orbit services and satellite services.
These two ambitious experiments are a demonstration of graphene’s diverse potential, and will lay the groundwork to expand the frontiers of graphene research.