Will we soon see graphene being used in space?

Researchers from the Cambridge Graphene Centre have tested graphene in simulated microgravity for the first time.
Published in Physics
Will we soon see graphene being used in space?

The experiments they conducted were designed to test graphene’s potential in cooling systems for satellites.

Graphene – a form of carbon just a single atom thick – has a unique combination of properties that make it useful for applications from flexible electronics and fast data communication, to enhanced structural materials and water treatments. It is highly electrically and thermally conductive, as well as strong and flexible.

The researchers aimed to improve the performance of cooling systems in use in satellites, making use of graphene’s excellent thermal properties.

“We are using graphene in what are called loop-heat pipes. These are pumps that move fluid without the need for any mechanical parts, so there is no wear and tear, which is very important for space applications,” said Professor Andrea Ferrari, Director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre.

The main element of the loop-heat pipe is the metallic wick, where the fluid is evaporated into gas. Coating the metallic wick in graphene improves the efficiency of the heat pipe. After promising results on Earth, the graphene-coated wicks were then taken onboard a parabolic flight to be tested under microgravity-like conditions. During the flight, the graphene-coated wicks again demonstrated excellent performance, with more efficient heat and fluid transfer compared to the untreated wicks. 

Professor Andrea Ferrari onboard the parabolic flight (credit: Graphene Flagship)

“The next step will be to start working on a prototype that could go either on a satellite or on the space station,” said Ferrari.

The research was supported by the Graphene Flagship and the European Space Agency.

To learn more watch the video below, and you can find the original press release here.


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