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A Fast Inflatable Sail Using Desorption

14 Aug 2020, 17:53 UTC
A Fast Inflatable Sail Using Desorption
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

The first laboratory work on pushing a space sail with microwaves was performed by Jim and Greg Benford at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory back in 1999, with the results presented the following year at a European conference. Leik Myrabo (then at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) was, at about the same time, performing experiments with lasers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. When you think about the problems of laboratory work on these matters, consider the fact of gravity, meaning that you are working in a 1 g gravity well with diaphanous materials whose acceleration depends on how hot you can allow them to become.
Advances in materials and in particular in lightweight carbon structures allowed the Benfords’ experiments to succeed, with the help of a 10-kilowatt microwave beam that produced significant acceleration on the test object. But I’m reminded by looking at a new paper on sail technologies using no beam at all that the Benfords also demonstrated something else. Molecules of CO2, hydrocarbons and hydrogen that had been incorporated in the lattice of their material at manufacture emerged under the high temperatures involved. Thus another form of acceleration came into play through the phenomenon called desorption.
Image: Carbon ...

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