A new study by the Australian National University (ANU) has found that many 2D materials can not only sustain the delivery to the universe, but also potentially advance in difficult conditions.
This could affect the type of material used to build everything, from satellite electronics to solar cells and batteries – making future space missions more affordable and cheaper to launch.
The candidate for doctoral studies and lead author Tobias Vogl was particularly interested in whether 2D materials can withstand intense radiation.
"The space environment is obviously very different from what we have here on Earth, so we have exposed various 2D materials to levels of radiation comparable to what we expect in the universe," said Vogel.
"We found that most of these devices are working well, we have studied electrical and optical properties, and we have not seen any difference at all."
During the orbit of satellites around the Earth, it is susceptible to warming, cooling, and radiation. Although a lot of work has been done to demonstrate the robustness of 2D materials when it comes to temperature fluctuations, the effect of radiation is largely unknown – so far.
ANU team conducted a series of simulations for modeling spatial environments for potential orbits. This was used to expose 2D material to the expected radiation levels. They found that one material actually improves when subjected to intense gamma radiation.
"The material that gets stronger after gamma radiation is irradiated – it reminds me of the hulk," Vogl said.
"We're talking about radiation levels above what we see in the universe – but we actually see that the material gets better or brighter."
G. Vogl says that this specific material could potentially be used to detect the level of radiation in other difficult environments, such as nuclear reactor sites.
"The application of these 2D materials will be quite diverse, from the graphite-reinforced satellite structures – five times harder than steel – to lightweight and more efficient solar cells, which will help when it comes to really getting an experiment in space."
Among the tested devices were atomic thin transistors. Transistors are a key component for each electronic circuit. The study also tested quantum light sources, which can be used to form what Mr. Wohl describes as the "backbone" of the future quantum Internet.
"They could be used for satellite quantum cryptographic networks remotely. This quantum internet would be evidence of hacking, which is more important than ever during this era of growing cyber attacks and data breaches."
"Australia is already a world leader in quantum technology," said senior author Ping Koi Lam.
"In light of the recent establishment of the Australian Space Agency and its own ANU Space Institute, this paper shows that we can also compete internationally in the use of quantum technology for the advancement of space instruments."
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.
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