A new study from Australian National University (ANU) has found a number of 2D materials can not only resist being sent out into space, but potentially succeed in the harsh conditions.
It can affect the type of material used to build everything from satellite electronics to solar cells and batteries – which makes future space missions more accessible and cheaper to start.
PhD candidate and lead author Tobias Vogl was particularly interested in whether the 2D material can withstand strong radiation.
"The space environment is obviously very different from what we have here on earth. So we exposed a lot of 2D materials to radiation levels comparable to what we expect in space," says Vogl.
"We found most of these devices very good. We looked at electrical and optical properties and did not see much difference."
During the orbit of a satellite around the earth, it is subject to heating, cooling and radiation. While there has been a lot of work showing the robustness of 2D material when it comes to temperature fluctuations, radiation effect has to a large extent been unknown – so far.
The ANU team conducted a number of simulations to model space environments for potential courses. This was used to expose 2D material to the expected radiation levels. They found a material that actually improved when exposed to intense gamma radiation.
"A material gets stronger after irradiation with gamma rays – it reminds me of the sob," Vogl said.
"We are talking about radiation levels over what we should see in space – but we actually saw that the material was getting better or brighter."
Mr Vogl says that this specific material can potentially be used to detect radiation levels in other harsh environments, such as near nuclear reactor sites.
"The uses of these 2D materials will be quite versatile, from graphite-based satellite structures – five times stronger than steel – to lighter and more efficient solar cells, which will help in actually getting the experiment space."
Among the tested devices were atomic thin transistors. Transistors are a crucial component for any electronic circuit. The study also tested quantum light sources, which could be used to form what Mr Vogl describes as "backbone" in the future quantum Internet.
"They could be used for satellite-based remote quantum cryptography networks. This quantum Internet would be hacking, which is more important than ever at this age of rising cyber attack and data breaches."
"Australia is already a world leader in quantum technology," says senior author Professor Ping Koy Lam.
"In the light of the new creation of the Australian Space Agency and the ANU's own space agency, this work shows that we can also compete internationally with the help of quantum technology to improve space instrumentation."
The research has been published in the newspaper nature Communications.
Materials provided by Australian National University. Note The content can be edited for style and length.