Space travel is heading in an exciting direction, especially with the development of hybrid energy technology. Here in this article, we take you through this technology and explain why it will be the future for space exploration…
If you haven’t heard of graphene before, it’s an allotrope of carbon, shaped in a 2D lattice with a honeycomb shape. This single-layer of latticed material is one of the world’s strongest, thinnest, and most conductive materials for both heat and electricity.
The number of applications of this material is enormous. All around the world, it is being used in photonic circuits, electrical equipment, medical, industrial, and chemical equipment. You can even find it embedded deep in the depths of solar cells.
Scientists all around the world are discovering new applications for graphene every day. So what does this have to do with space exploration? Ever heard of rockets such as the Skylark Nano rocket, or supersonic short-range rockets? This material is the latest brainwave in optimizing rocket launches and streamlining space exploration missions. Let’s find out more about hybrid energy sources and this intriguing compound’s use.
Graphene’s Potential as Hybrid Energy
In the latest wave of hybrid energy innovations, scientists have discovered new ways of using graphene foams to power rockets and spacecraft. The premise behind using this material is that it maximizes the catalytic effects of metal oxide additives which are generally used with solid propellants. By doing this, it’s possible to greatly increase the decomposition of fuel.
So far the results have been remarkable – researchers have gathered a lot of data showing that graphene-based compositions work well with highly conductive solid fuel. Porous foams of graphene can actually enhance the burning rate of solid fuel on a spacecraft. What’s more is that such porous structures are highly stable under large temperatures, and can even be reused.
Just think about the applications of using such technology on multiple occasions! Re-using isn’t something you hear about often in the world of space exploration. The graphene compositions are developed in a unique way that makes them highly reusable, whilst still delivering substantial improvements in fuel combustion rates.
New Research Efforts
As researchers push on to discover green hybrid energy solutions around the world, new formulations of rocket propellants are being developed at Purdue University. Associate Professor of astronautics and aeronautics, Li Qiao, has recently undertaken studies on emerging hybrid energy technology.
Qiao concludes that graphene-based rocket tech is highly porous, lightweight and stable, which significantly increases launch efficiency and ultimately helps to cut the cost of space missions. The interconnected nature of this product means that heat can spread rapidly and ignite a rocket’s propellant with ease.
All Sorts of Applications
Qiao highly commends the technology, praising it for its performance. They believe that there are a lot of commercial applications, especially when it comes to hypersonic. Tests carried out by Qiao indicate a 90% better burn rate enhancement in rocket launch systems that make use of a functionalized graphene foam structure. If you’ve ever wondered “how does a hybrid car save energy?”, it’s all about making marginal gains, but these are not marginal gains – these gains are enormous!
Purdue University’s professor has also discussed the applications of graphene foam in national security efforts. It could be very beneficial for missile defence systems, helping rocket launchers’ efficiency. It is evident just how important this will be for nations around the world, particularly as the trend is to invest more in missile defence systems.
Other than national security applications, graphene foam is likely to be used for future energy conversion devices, helping to make them more efficient. There are all sorts of ways that graphene can be incorporated into modern-day space technology. At this moment in time, the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization is working hard to try and distribute their hybrid energy method findings. They’re also looking hard to try and find partners and license the technology they developed – clearly, they see a lot of potential in this space technology.
Qiao’s work aligns perfectly with Purdue University’s Giant Leaps celebration that acknowledges global efforts and improvements in space exploration. Space exploration is clearly a market that is on the up, with recent reports citing a predicted growth of 6.42% between the decades of 2020 and 2030. The research and development of such hybrid energy systems couldn’t have come at a better time in space exploration’s history! The world eagerly awaits to see just how hybrid energy can fuel the future of space exploration.
How do you feel about these discoveries? What are your opinions on space exploration? We’d love to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.