Graphene Flagship experiments explore space applications

The Graphene Flagship has announced two new experiments that will be testing the viability of using graphene in space applications. The projects will start in November 2017 in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA).

Graphene Flagship, a European Union research initiative, explores the potential of using single-atom-thick carbon in new technologies. A major part of the programme is to train students and young researchers.

One of the experiments will be led by graduate students at Delft Technical University in the Netherlands. Their work will also be part of an ESA Education programme called Drop Your Thesis!, which offers students an opportunity to design experiments for the ZARM Drop Tower in Germany. Using the free-fall microgravity conditions generated in the tower, the researchers will test graphene light sails made by Graphenea. Their aim is to understand how much thrust can be generated when a laser light is shone on the graphene membranes, which could lead to a new method of satellite propulsion using lasers or sunlight.

In the second experiment, young researchers from the University of Brussels in Belgium and the University of Cambridge in the UK will investigate whether graphene can improve the efficiency of heat transfer in loop heat pipes. These are cooling systems used in satellites and aerospace instruments. A significant part of loop heat pipes is the wick – typically a porous metal material. The team will coat the wicks with graphene-related materials and test their efficiency during low-gravity parabolic flights. The experiment will be in collaboration with the National Research Council of Italy and Leonardo Spa in Italy, while the flights will be operated by ESA and Novespace in France.

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