Due to its distinctive properties, graphene is thought to be a disruptive material that will change a range of industries and applications.
The Graphene Flagship initiative was set up as Europe’s biggest ever multi-stakeholder research initiative, with the aim to help shape the future of technology.
The project, which was partly funded by the EU, was established to exploit the technological potential of graphene and any related layered materials for future applications.
Recently, researchers have conducted two experiments assessing, for the first time, the viability of graphene for space applications. Along with the European Space Agency (ESA) the experiments were tested under zero-gravity conditions specifically for light propulsion and for thermal management applications.
Graphene for space
Since graphene has unique thermal, light, strength and weight properties, it means the 2D material is ideal for the improvement of performance for aerospace and satellite applications.
In a series of experiments, researchers looked specifically at the possible use of the material for the improvement of space propulsion, as well and thermal management systems and loop heat pipes.
A team of graduates from Delft Technical University, Netherlands, took advantage of Germany’s 146 metre ZARM Drop Tower microgravity conditions (down to one millionth of the Earth’s gravitational force) to investigate the use of solar sales.
The team designed free-floating graphene membranes which were then exposed to radiation pressure. This was done through the use of lasers to see how the membranes reacted and indicate how much thrust could be generated.
The second experiment looked into how heat transfer in loop heat pipes could be made more efficient. The metallic wicks had their usual metal coatings replaced with two types of graphene-related materials. Which were then tested for increased thermal conductivity during two parabolic microgravity and hypergravity ESA flights.
The results from both experiments showed the versatility of the nanomaterial and it is now being further investigated.
The flagship is designed to represent the value chain from materials to component systems. A consortium of academic and industry experts runs its various research strands. The European Commission contributes directly through funding, along with research results from EU-funded projects such as GRAPHENECORE 1.
Professor Andre Ferrari, Science and Technology Officer for the EU’s Graphene Flagship Project and Director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre will be speaking to SciTech Europa about the project, the article will be published in SciTech Europa: Issue 26 which will be published in March, 2018Materia