China plans to use graphene and light to power spacecraft

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UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Graphene will help one day to help set in motion the spacecraft, the Xinhua news agency reported, citing Chinese scientists.

Traditional spacecraft are driven by chemical fuels. The distance that they can overcome is limited by the amount of fuel on board, which significantly reduces the payload of modern rockets and spacecraft.

Graphene is a two-dimensional allotropic modification of carbon, formed by a layer of carbon atoms one atom thick, connected in a hexagonal lattice. It is one of the most durable and thinnest materials known to conduct heat and electricity well.

Graphene and the light of stars in the universe can provide almost inexhaustible energy for future spacecraft, say the Chinese Research Institute of Rocket Technology.

Scientists in the United States, Europe and Japan are developing spaceships with solar sails made of polyamide film, but the thrust created in this way is considered relatively weak. Chinese researchers develop graphene sails that can withstand temperatures in excess of 800 degrees Celsius.

A previous study by Chen Yongsheng, a professor at Nankai University in Tianjin, showed that graphene can be activated by various light sources, including sunlight. At the same time, in vacuum conditions in outer space, the thrust created by him is one thousand times higher than that of a polyamide film.

Xinhua, however, notes that in order to turn a theory into usable technology for spacecraft, numerous studies and tests are needed.

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