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Uncle Sam

Can Graphene be used for future Spacecrafts?

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Introduction of Graphene

I heard a lot about the properties of Graphene which displays amazing conductive properties, resistance to high and cold temperatures, is extremely flexible, and is considered stronger than a diamond. My question is can Graphene be used to future space exploration?

Graphene

Graphene is a one-atom-thick planar sheet of carbon atoms, densely packed together into a honeycomb shaped crystal lattice. Graphene looks like atomic-scale chicken wire made up of carbon atoms and their bonds.

The carbon-carbon bond length in graphene is about 0.142 nm. Graphene is the basic structural element of several carbon allotropes including graphite, carbon nanotubes and fullerenes. Many sheets of graphene stacked together are collectively called graphite.

Carbon Nanotube

Carbon Nanotube is cylindrical molecules of carbon with novel properties that are potentially useful in a wide variety of applications including Nano-electronics, optics, materials applications, etc. They exhibit extraordinary tensile strength, a unique range of electrical properties, and are efficient thermal conductors.

Most single-walled nanotubes (SWNT) are close to 1 nanometer in diameter, with a tube length that can be many millions of times longer. The structure of a SWNT can be thought of as a one-atom-thick layer of graphite, called graphene, wrapped into a seamless cylinder. The way the graphene sheet is wrapped is represented by a pair of indices.

Single-walled nanotubes are still very expensive to produce, around $1500 per gram as of 2000. Several suppliers offer as-produced arc discharge SWNTs for $100 per gram as of 2007.

Multi-walled nanotubes (MWNT) consist of multiple rolled layers (concentric tubes) of graphene. The interlayer distance in multi-walled nanotubes is close to the distance between graphene layers in graphite, approximately 3.3 Å (330 pm).

Inorganic nanotubes have also been synthesized. A nanotube is a member of the fullerene structural family, which also includes buckyballs. Whereas buckyballs are spherical in shape, a nanotube is cylindrical, with at least one end typically capped with a hemisphere of the buckyball structure. Their name is derived from their size, since the diameter of a nanotube is on the order of a few nanometers or less (approximately 50,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair), while they can be up to several centimeters in length. There are two main types of nanotubes: single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs) and multi-walled nanotubes (MWNTs).

A macroscopic aggregate of carbon nanotubes is called "buckypaper." Buckypaper is extremely lightweight - only a tenth the weight of steel, yet potentially 500 times stronger when sheets are stacked to form a composite. Buckypaper is one of the most thermally conductive materials known. It is also very electrically conductive, flexible like regular paper, and fire retardant.

Touted as "harder than diamonds" and "stronger than steel at a fraction of the weight," buckypaper's potential applications include use as an aerospace material, fire protection, novel television screens, heat sinks, electromagnetic interference shielding, filtration, armor and even artificial muscles. Buckypaper will find a myriad uses in manufacturing as soon as production can be ramped up and cost is decreased enough to become viable.

Fullerenes

Fullerenes are an allotrope (physical arrangement of atoms) of carbon distinct from both graphite and diamond. They are a cylindrical, spherical or ellipsoid arrangement consisting of dozens of carbon atoms. Discovered in 1985 by Robert F. Curl, Harold W. Kroto and Richard E. Smalley, fullerenes are a molecular form of carbon distinct from graphite and diamond. "Fullerenes" were named after the architectural designer, Richard Buckminster Fuller, for their resemblance to the geodesic dome. Fullerenes can be spherical, ellipsoid, or cylindrical arrangements of dozens to hundreds of carbon atoms. A spherical fullerene made of exactly sixty carbon atoms is called buckminsterfullerene (C60) looks similar to a soccer ball, and is often referred to as a "buckyball." Cylindrical fullerenes are known as "buckytubes" or most commonly "nanotubes." One hemisphere of a Bucky ball can be used to cap the ends of a nanotube.

Buckyballs could be used as diagnostic tools, or drug delivery vessels. They also have potential as superconductors, catalysts, Scanning Tunneling Microscope tips, or even as a nano ball-bearing lubricant.

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Only in the trivial sense, I think.

The big use of graphene and carbon nanotubes is in electronics and nanoscale mechanical devices. Neither of these materials would be useful for forming large scale (cm or larger) structures. Fullerenes are even less useful.

Carbon nanotubes - could they be made pure enough and long enough - could be the cable of a space elevator that would make space travel economical.

But it is difficult to think of a space-travel application that would specifically and exclusively benefit from being composed of carbon-nanostructures.

(For example, sure graphene has a huge tensile strength, but in deep space there is very little stress on an object, so why not just use sheet metal? Graphene would weigh less, sure, but it would also be many times more expensive to make.)

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Posted (edited)

(For example, sure graphene has a huge tensile strength, but in deep space there is very little stress on an object, so why not just use sheet metal? Graphene would weigh less, sure, but it would also be many times more expensive to make.)

I guess it's because there are other interesting properties beside strenght and weight that could make this a prime choise.

Here are few things I found out.

KINETIC PROPERTIES

"Multi-walled nanotubes are multiple concentric nanotubes precisely nested within one another. These exhibit a striking telescoping property whereby an inner nanotube core may slide, almost without friction, within its outer nanotube shell, thus creating an atomically perfect linear or rotational bearing. This is one of the first true examples of molecular nanotechnology, the precise positioning of atoms to create useful machines. Already, this property has been utilized to create the world's smallest rotational motor. Future applications such as a gigahertz mechanical oscillator are also envisaged."

ELECTRICAL PROPERTIES

"In theory, metallic nanotubes can carry an electric current density of 4 × 109 A/cm2, which is more than 1,000 times greater than those of metals such as copper."

That's it for now. There should be a lot more than this but time's up for me today. Cheers.

Edited by JayMark

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Only in the trivial sense, I think.

The big use of graphene and carbon nanotubes is in electronics and nanoscale mechanical devices. Neither of these materials would be useful for forming large scale (cm or larger) structures. Fullerenes are even less useful.

Carbon nanotubes - could they be made pure enough and long enough - could be the cable of a space elevator that would make space travel economical.

But it is difficult to think of a space-travel application that would specifically and exclusively benefit from being composed of carbon-nanostructures.

(For example, sure graphene has a huge tensile strength, but in deep space there is very little stress on an object, so why not just use sheet metal? Graphene would weigh less, sure, but it would also be many times more expensive to make.)

Sure it would initially cost more to produce, but wouldn't it be better in the long run? You would need less fuel to get it to space, and then i'm sure there would be less maintenance required.

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Couldn't it be used as a solar panel of some kind. It's super conductive and extremely efficient so why not.

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