Cambridge University scientists have shot off samples of graphene ink into space via a MAterials Science Experiment Rocket (MASER) 14 launched from Sweden.
The goal of the Cambridge team – which includes researchers from the universities of Brussels and Pisa – is to assess whether graphene ink can be used to print batteries and other electronic components in space.
The Cambridge group has already pioneered the use of liquid phase exfoliation – one of the most common means of producing graphene – to prepare inks from graphene and related materials.
The Engineer reports that this was done and tested at the Cambridge Graphene Center.
The Cambridge team are optimistic that these latest round of experiments will help improve their understanding of the fundamentals of the printing process on Earth.
It will also enable the fabrication of graphene electronic devices during long-term space missions.
According to the scientists, graphene-based composites offer good radiation protection – a compulsory requirement for human spaceflight like that of the Mars-bound missions.
The latest rocket tests from the European Space Center in Sweden – which exposed the samples to microgravity for six minutes – are an extension of a zero-gravity parabolic flight carried out in May 2018, reports The Engineer.
“There is no better way to validate graphene’s potential than to send it to the environment it will be used in,” says Graphene Flagship space activities leader Carlo lorio, who is also a researcher at Université Libre de Bruxelles.
“Graphene has unique conductivity properties that scientists are continuing to take advantage of in new processes, devices and in this case, coatings.”
“Experiments like these are fundamental to graphene’s success and integral for building the material’s reputation as the leading material for space applications.”
Image and content: Tawfique Hasan/Cambridge University via The Engineer