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NASA Engineer Advances Nanotechnology for Tiny Satellites

A NASA engineer has achieved a milestone in his quest to advance an emerging super-black nanotechnology that promises to make spacecraft instruments more sensitive without enlarging their size. 
A team led by John Hagopian, an optics engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., has demonstrated that it can grow a uniform layer of carbon nanotubes through the use of another emerging technology called atomic layer deposition, or ALD. The marriage of the two technologies now means that NASA can grow nanotubes on three-dimensional components, such as complex baffles and tubes commonly used in optical instruments.

“The significance of this is that we have new tools that can make NASA instruments more sensitive without making our telescopes bigger and bigger,” Hagopian said. “This demonstrates the power of nanoscale technology, which is particularly applicable to a new class of less expensive tiny satellites called Cubesats that NASA is developing to reduce the cost of space missions.”

Since beginning his research and development effort five years ago, Hagopian and his team have made significant strides applying the carbon-nanotube technology to a number of spaceflight applications, including, among other things, the suppression of stray light that can overwhelm faint signals that sensitive detectors are supposed to retrieve.

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Also: Learn about Carbon Nanotube Microarrays Grown on Nanoflake Substrates.