Atomic oxygen isn't the only element the chemical sensor could measure, Sultana said. She also believes it's ideal for measuring methane, carbon monoxide, and other gases on other planetary bodies and monitoring outgassing that sometimes contaminates instrument optics. She plans to fabricate and test the first generation of graphene-based chemical sensors by the end of the fiscal year, she said. "This is at a very early stage," Sultana added.
Graphene's unique attributes also make it a viable candidate for detecting stresses in spacecraft components, she said. With her collaborators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the team is using support from NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist to advance a small sensor that could be embedded in spacecraft materials, including composites. If the material underwent some type of stress, the tiny sensors would detect it.
The team has used CVD to manufacture and test a large piece of graphene, whose electrical properties are sensitive to detecting stresses, Sultana said. Her MIT collaborators now are fabricating graphene devices and her team is wiring them to read out measurements much like the medical electrodes used for certain medical tests. However, Sultana plans to eliminate the wiring so that it operates autonomously, she said.
"This could be deployed in a non-invasive way," Stewart said. "Right now, we use relatively large devices to detect damage or potential sources of failure, but with autonomous graphene-based sensors our hope is that we could put them into the material itself."
"We can employ a different combination of its extreme properties and use the same material fo
|Contact: Lori Keesey|
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center