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Zero-gravity: graphene for space applications

Zero-gravity: graphene for space applications

The Cambridge Graphene Centre has begun a programme to test the viability of graphene for space applications.

Space is the new frontier for the Graphene Flagship. This initial experiment will test the viability of graphene-enabled devices for space applications.

Professor Andrea Ferrari, Director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre

The programme will be run alongside the Graphene Flagship partners Leonardo and Université Libre de Bruxelles, with the support of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Ms Lucia Lombardi, Dr Yarjan Samad, and Professor Andrea Ferrari, Director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre, will participate in two zero-gravity campaigns in November and December 2017.

Graphene will be tested in zero-gravity conditions using six parabolic flights to determine its potential in space applications, by applying it in novel loop-heat pipes to improve the thermal management of satellites and spacecrafts without the need of moving parts.

The experiment is a collaboration between the Cambridge Graphene Centre and Graphene Flagship partners at the Microgravity Research Centre, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, and Leonardo in Italy – a global leader in aerospace, producing a variety of components and systems for space applications.

The wick of the loop heat pipe, made of a porous metal, will be enhanced with different types of graphene-based coatings to improve the efficiency. During each three-hour flight, the specially modified Novespace plane will make a series of 30 parabolic ascents with more than 20 seconds of weightlessness in each parabola.

Lucia Lombardi said: “I’m really excited because this will be my first zero-gravity experience. 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.”

Professor Ferrari, who is also Science and Technology Officer and Chair of the Management Panel of the Graphene Flagship, added: “Space is the new frontier for the Graphene Flagship. This initial experiment will test the viability of graphene-enabled devices for space applications. The combined strengths of the Graphene Flagship partners and ESA give a strong basis to reach a high technology readiness level.”

This article has been edited from the Cambridge Graphene Centre website.

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