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2-D materials include spacecraft applications.

Tobias Vogel. Credit: Lannon Harley, ANU

A new study by the Australian National University (ANU) shows that many 2D materials can survive being sent into space and potentially thrive even in harsh environments.

It affects the types of materials used to make everything from satellite electronics to solar cells and batteries, making future space missions easier to use and lowering the launch cost.

Ph.D. Candidate and lead author Tobias Vogl was especially interested in whether 2-D materials could withstand intense radiation.

"The space environment is quite different from what we have on Earth, so we exposed two-dimensional matter to radiation at a level similar to what we expected from space," Dr. Vogel said.

"We found that most of these devices were actually well handled. We were looking at electrical and optical properties, but basically there was no difference."

From Earth's satellite orbit, it can be heated, cooled and radiated. There has been a lot of work to demonstrate the robustness of 2-D materials in relation to temperature changes, but the effects of radiation have not been known until now.

The ANU team performed several simulations to model the space environment for potential orbits. It has been used to expose two-dimensional materials to the expected radiation levels. They found that when exposed to intense gamma radiation, one substance actually improved.

"After the gamma ray, the material gets stronger and reminds me of a Hulk," Dr. Vogel said.

"We're talking about a higher level of radiation than we can see in space, but we've actually seen that matter better or brighter."

Professor Vogel said this particular substance could potentially be used to detect radiation doses in harsh environments, such as near a reactor.

"The application area of ​​this 2-D material is very diverse in lighter and more efficient solar cells, which are useful when actually conducting experiments on graphene-enhanced satellite structures that are five times more rigid than steel."

Among the tested devices, there were atomically thin transistors. Transistors are an important component of any electronic circuit. The study also examined quantum light sources that could be used to form what Vogl described as the "backbone" of the future quantum Internet.

"This quantum Internet can be used for satellite-based long distance quantum cryptography networks, which will be evidence of hacking, which is more important now that cyber attacks and data leaks are on the rise."

Professor Ping Koy Lam said, "Australia is already a world leader in quantum technology.

"In light of the recent establishment of the Australian Space Agency and the Institute for Space at the ANU, this study demonstrates that it can compete internationally using quantum technologies to improve space technology."

The study was published in a journal. Natural communication.

Additional information:
The new reactor liner alloy material provides strength and resilience.

Additional information:
Tobias Vogl et al. The radiation tolerance of two-dimensional material-based devices for space applications, Natural communication (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-019-09219-5

Journal Reference:
Natural communication

Provided by:
Australian National University

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