National Physical Laboratory

Nanotechnology for space

In 2010 NPL's nanomaterials group completed a project appointed to us by the European Space Agency (ESA) to survey nanotechnology capabilities in Europe.

Nanomaterials have many applications in space-based applications (Image courtesy of ESA)
Nanomaterials have many applications in
space-based applications (image courtesy of ESA)

The NPL-led consortium identified the next generation of nano and smart materials that can be used in future space missions. The Institute of Nanotechnology and Britten Consulting Ltd were the other partners in the consortium who worked on this project.

NPL has, for over 110 years, been the UK's home of measurement science, occupying a unique position at the intersection between scientific discovery and real world application. For this reason, Dr Constantinos Stavrinidis, Head of Mechanical Engineering at ESA considered NPL 'a natural partner to help ESA plan the future of materials for space'.

The core of NPL's work was to develop a nanomaterials 'roadmap' for the years 2010-2016. NPL mapped Europe's nanotechnology capabilities, and reviewed the space industry's priorities.

The NPL-led consortium confirmed that nanomaterials show great potential to solve some existing space engineering issues, and Europe is able to provide these materials to ESA. However, an important conclusion was that in order for these materials to be used in space and other related sectors; standards, metrology and modelling tools must be developed further. As a centre of excellence for material science metrology, NPL is well placed to help ESA to further the use of nanomaterials in space applications.

The development of ESA Harwell marks a new stage in ESA's relationship with the UK. The opportunity now exists to demonstrate just how much the UK can offer to the European space programme, and NPL will play an important part.

Find out more about NPL's Nanomaterials research and our work in the Digital Economy sector.

Last Updated: 7 Nov 2016
Created: 17 Dec 2010

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