Demonstration of Vertically Aligned Carbon Nano-tubes for Earth Climate Remote Sensing

PI: H. Todd Smith, Johns Hopkins University / Applied Physics Lab, Lars P. Dyrud (Co-I), Johns Hopkins University

Vertically Aligned Carbon Nanotubes (VACNTs) possess numerous remarkable electrical, thermal and optical properties, including that they are the blackest known substance to humankind. This property, as well as their very light thermal mass, makes them ideal absorbers for radiation measurement instruments. Herein we describe a demonstration of VACNT-based radiometer technology to be carried on a commercial suborbital reusable launch vehicle (sRLV). The results of this proposed work and demonstration would raise the technology readiness level (TRL) of this technology from 3 to 7 enabling their proposed use in future NASA and operational Earth science missions.

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA10 Nanotechnology
Problem Statement

VACNT based bolometer radiometers provide just the type of instrument improvements needed to make Earth and Sun observing radiometers sufficiently accurate and low cost to measure’s Earth’s absolute energy balance/imbalance for the first time. This is precisely the measurement that is needed to resolve the climate change debate and enable vastly superior predictions of future change.

Technology Maturation

Integration of the VACNT with a radiometer sensor head and environmental testing will bring them to TRL 5 for this application, and the flight on a sRLV will bring the technology to TRL 6. Successful measurement of the solar incident radiation will bring the VACNT-based radiometer sensor head to TRL 7.

Future Customers

VACNT have numerous proposed future uses in space applications in addition to radiometer absorbing elements. Current pursuits include stray light suppression, thermal management, electrical generation and transmission, and super-light structures, as outlined in NASA Technology Roadmap [2012] Nanotechology Area (TA10).

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    NRA-1-APP-A (Jul 2012)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 0 sRLV

Development Team

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