White paper looks at nanotechnology in space exploration

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Nanotubes Bundles
Photo: World Nano Foundation

The World Nano Foundation, a not-for-profit membership organization dedicated to the international commercialization of nanoscale technologies, has published its latest white paper, “Space Exploration: Unveiling the Potential of Nanotechnology in Advanced Materials Science.”

It explores the groundbreaking advancements in materials science that are revolutionizing space exploration and paving the way for unprecedented achievements in the field.

Space exploration has always captivated the imagination, presenting challenges, particularly in the realm of materials science required to withstand the harsh conditions of space. However, recent breakthroughs in nanoscience have unlocked remarkable opportunities, offering promising solutions to enhance space travel and propel space programmes forward.

The white paper, which can be downloaded here, delves into the latest advancements in materials science, showcasing how nanotechnology can be tailored to meet the specific needs of space exploration. At the nanoscale, materials exhibit unique properties that can be harnessed for spacecraft construction, making them more resilient, lightweight, and cost-effective.

Carbon nanotubes

For instance, carbon nanotubes boast exceptional mechanical and electrical properties, enabling the development of robust yet lightweight spacecraft structures. Nanoscale coatings applied to spacecraft surfaces also provide enhanced protection against space hazards such as radiation and micrometeoroids. Additionally, nanosensors offer the ability to monitor critical parameters and ensure mission success.

While space exploration presents various barriers to entry, including high research and development costs, lengthy development timelines, and regulatory hurdles, the market for advanced materials in space exploration is experiencing rapid growth.

According to a report by Emergen Research, the market is projected to reach $630.23 billion by 2028. Technological advancements, the flexibility of 3D printing and Additive Manufacturing, and the reduction in cost and weight of space components are key factors driving this growth.

Surging investment

Investments in materials science for space exploration have surged in recent years. Established organizations like NASA have launched initiatives, such as the Game Changing Development Program, to advance spacecraft performance and cost reduction through the development of advanced materials.

Also, startups have emerged as key players, capitalizing on nanotechnology to revolutionize various aspects of space exploration. Notable examples include Deep Space Industries, Astroscale, and Orbion Space Technology, which have secured significant investments to expedite their research and development efforts.

Academic institutions worldwide are also actively engaged in nanomaterial research for space exploration. The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech, MIT, University of Cambridge, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Indian Space Research Organisation, and Beijing Institute of Technology are just some of those driving innovation and collaborating with space agencies and organisations to move the field forward.

“The potential of nanotechnology in space applications is truly remarkable,” said Shelli Brunswick, representative of the Space Foundation.

“Lighter and more durable spacecraft, sensors that can detect radiation and other environmental factors—nanomaterials open new frontiers for space exploration, making it possible to explore more distant and hostile environments.”

Carlo Iorio, Graphene Flagship Space Champion from Universitié Libre de Bruxelles, added: “Graphene and other new materials will enable radiation protection, electronics shielding, and mechanical resistance in space exploration. These developments will pave the way for groundbreaking missions and discoveries.”

Paul Stannard, founder of the World Nano Foundation, concluded: “Nanotechnology propels space exploration to new horizons, enabling us to venture farther and discover more. By harnessing the power of tiny materials, we can build spacecraft that are lighter, stronger, and more efficient. Nanosensors guide us through challenging environments, ensuring safe and successful missions.”

About the World Nano Foundation

The World Nano Foundation is a not-for-profit membership organisation with 75,000 subscribers and users in 40 countries working on international commercialisation of nanoscale technologies in 16 industry sectors.

It collaborates with a wide variety of partners, maximising support and funding bringing advanced technology to the world and commerce. This is supported by many industries and academic groups developing and creating a legacy to enable technology innovation.

Jim Cornall is editor of Deeptech Digest and publisher at Ayr Coastal Media. He is an award-winning writer, editor, photographer, broadcaster, designer and author. Contact Jim here.