Could astronauts one day print their own graphene replacement parts while they’re in space? We’re about to find out.
Plenty has been written about the potential of the material here on Earth — a two-dimensional version of carbon, it is about 100 times stronger than the strongest steel and is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity.
But it’s only really been used here on earth.
This week the European Commission’s Graphene Flagship launched the Materials Science Experiment Rocket (MASER) to test graphene’s applications in space.
The main purpose is to see if it’s possible to print graphene inks in space. The inks can be used in the production of batteries, super-capacitors, printed electronics, and a host of other products.
If researchers are able to demonstrate how these inks work in space, astronauts could print devices and parts on the International Space Station, or repair electronics with graphene ink printers.
Results from the tests will also provide important detail for graphene printing applications back on Earth.
The astronomical community will wait with baited breath. As sights are set to return to the Moon, and send the first humans beyond that to Mars, finding materials that can withstand the rigours of space and protect astronauts from radiation is crucial.
“Graphene has unique conductivity properties that scientists are continuing to take advantage of in new processes, devices and in this case, coatings,” said Carlo Iorio, from the Graphene Flagship.
“Experiments like these are fundamental to graphene’s success and integral for building the material’s reputation as the leading material for space applications.”
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