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John O | July 2017

Graphene being tested in Europe for zero-gravity applications


The Graphene Flagship, a coordinated research project established by the European Union and consisting of more than 150 academic institutions in 23 countries, announced that it is preparing for a pair of experiments to test graphene in zero-gravity applications this fall.

 


The Graphene Flagship will be working with ESA to test graphene's impact on loop
heat pipes in space. (Graphene Flagship)

 

Collaborating with the European Space Agency (ESA), the Graphene Flagship will launch its experiments between November 6-17 and test graphene’s potential in space applications for light propulsion and for thermal management.

 

The first experiment will test graphene in solar sails, a project spearheaded by students at TU DEelft in the Netherlands. As a report from the Graphene Flagship explained, “By shining laser light on suspended graphene-membranes from Flagship partner Graphenea, the experiment will test how much thrust can be generated, which could lead to a new way of propelling satellites in space using light from lasers or the sun.”

 

At the same time, there will also be a test of graphene’s impact on the efficiency of heat transfer in loop heat pipes, which are common cooling solutions used in space applications.

 

“A significant part of the loop heat pipe is the wick,” the report continued, “typically made of porous metal. In this experiment, the wicks will be coated with different types of graphene-related marerials to improve the efficiency of the heat pipe. The coated wicks will be tested in a low-gravity parabolic flight operated by ESA in partnership with Novespace, France.”

 

The test will take place in a series of three-hour flights in a specially modified plane that will perform 30 parabolic assents with 25 seconds of weightlessness in each.

 

The second test will include coatings of graphene and graphene oxide to test both materials for their impact on the performance of the heat pipes.

 

Andrea Ferrari (University of Cambridge), Science and Technology Officer of the Graphene Flagship and chair of its management panel said, "Space is the new frontier for the Graphene Flagship. These initial experiments will test the viability of graphene-enabled devices for space applications. The combined strengths of the Graphene Flagship, Flagship partners and the European Space Agency as well global leader in aerospace applications Leonardo, give a strong basis to reach a high technology readiness level." 

 

Learn more about the loop heat pipe team in the video below:

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