The European Space Agency (ESA) has appointed the UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) to survey nanotechnology capabilities in Europe. NPL's Nanomaterials group will lead a consortium to identify the next generation of nano and smart materials that will be used in future space missions.
"Advances in nanotechnology are crucial to Europe's space programme," says Laurie Winkless, Higher Research Scientist in the nanomaterials group at NPL, who will be the principal author of the survey.
"The weight of spacecraft is a key factor in the overall cost of any space mission. If we can identify better, lighter and more efficient materials and the best ways of using them, it may have a huge impact on the space programme," she explains.
The NPL led consortium will help ESA to identify nanomaterials companies with potential to contribute to the future of satellite navigation and earth observation. Furthermore, it will define how these materials can add value to real space applications. High quality and thoroughly tested smart materials will play a much greater role in future applications.
The National Physical Laboratory will be joined in the consortium by specialist space consultancy ESYS and the Institute of Nanotechnology. The consortium's report is due in August 2009. It will allow ESA to review potential applications of nanomaterials for space applications and missions and quantify the resulting improvements.
Dr Constantinos Stavrinidis, Head of Mechanical Engineering at ESA explained that NPL won the contract for its long standing expertise in material science and their knowledge of the space industry.
"NPL's knowledge and experience in both areas make it a natural partner to help ESA plan the future of materials for space," he says. "By July 2009, we will know how the space programme can use nanomaterials in the next decade."
|Contact: Joe Meaney|
National Physical Laboratory