|This is what I picture a graphene rocket to look like.|
I was listening to Bill Nye on the Nerdist podcast this morning. Bill Nye is awesome and one of several reasons I decided to go into science (and also for potential superhero/supervillain capabilities). Telling science to the everyday man and exploring new frontiers is something I like to do and something I learned from Bill Nye's shows.
One thing that I did not know about Bill Nye is that he worked for Boeing and he was fairly passionate about talking about making better spaceships. On the Nerdist Podcast he mentioned that an airplane like a Boeing 747 is about 30% fuel whereas a rocket is about 70% fuel. That is a lot of fuel to be sending to people and things to space. So every extra kilo of baggage the astronauts take costs a lot of fuel (so you cannot take your favorite pillow to space).
To save on fuel you would need to get rid of extra weight for things that you cannot get rid. This can be done with ipads to save paper weight of the navigation charts, better designed seats, and lighter people.
It was interesting listening to Bill Nye talk about the space and his work with the The Planetary Society. He talked about plastic planes or carbon fiber planes that they are making at Boeing. Eventually someone like techies Elon Musk at Tesla and Space-X or former Microsoft Paul Allen will make a plane or a rocket but instead of steal make it out of plastic. In fact Paul Allen and a company called Stratolaunch are already in development of this plane and booster rockets will be made by Space-X. Seriously, check out the story here. I am all for the post Howard Hugh's era of making private aeronautics research and development. More billionaires need to take the helm and take to the skies.
But is plastic the best material? Should we do people trust plastic? Advances in plastic have been huge since Dustin Hoffman was introduced to plastics in 'The Graduate' Can it withstand space?
Are there better materials to go to space? I thought of graphene.
Graph what? Graphene is a new material being researched that has all the properties to make a great rocket ship. It is strong, light and thin. How strong, how light and how thin?
For example as quoted directly:
“It would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of cling film.” said Columbia University Engineering Professor James Hone; continuing, "Our research establishes graphene as the strongest material ever measured, some 200 times stronger than structural steel." (emphasis added) Source: Scientific American online
A graphene sheet is only one atom thick, so it takes 3 million sheets on top of each other to be the thickness of one millimeter!
It is so strong because it is made of Carbon atoms double-bonded together in a lattice. “It would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of cling film.” said Columbia University Engineering Professor James Hone; continuing, "Our research establishes graphene as the strongest material ever measured, some 200 times stronger than structural steel."
(emphasis added) Source: Scientific American online
A graphene sheet is only one atom thick, so it takes 3 million sheets on top of each other to be the thickness of one millimeter! It is so strong because it is made of Carbon atoms double-bonded together in a lattice.
Graphene would be an excellent material to be used for a rocketship of the future. It is unbelievably light. It is unbelievably thin and it is unbelievably strong.
However, the future is can be far away depending on how fast the research can be conducted, and whether it can be mass produced. A couple of years ago I went to a conference and learned that they were making repoducable sheets of graphene using In order to make these lattices you need to use graphene on interfaces. A really cool method made by researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois made for several applications using Langmuir Blodgett monolayers. Another paper using the same technique can be found here.
A group in Sydney has recently made graphene paper. This is 10 times stronger than carbon fiber.
The LB monolayers simple device allows the graphene to be one molecule thick then made into a lattice of molecules. These simple devices starting from a kitchen sink of a housewife in England will help us make the best rockets to thrust us into space. Hopefully, the research in this area will be successful and we will get to the moon, to mars or beyond....