May 7, 2020

Laser-Propulsion of Graphene Sails in Microgravity

Posted by in categories: materials, space travel

Graphene light sail of 3mm in diameter with a mass of 0.25 mg ‘sets sail’ when pointed with a 1W laser. The prototype has a graphene micromembrane design that reduces the overall mass while keeping functional the complete area of the sail. Credit: Dr. Santiago Jose Cartamil-Bueno.

Overseas exploration and trade during the Age of Discovery (15th-17th centuries) were possible by sail technology, and deep-space exploration will require the same for the coming Age of NewSpace. This time, however, the new sails shall move with light instead of wind, for which these light sails need to be extremely large, thin, lightweight, reflective, and strong.

In a light-hearted leap for humankind, ESA-backed researchers demonstrate the laser-propulsion of graphene sails in microgravity.

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