Date: 5 months ago   Category: Hi-Tech

Nanophoton light sails can be dispersed to relativistic speeds


Once, in not the so long-term future, light sails will rush through space at a speed about 20% from light (or 60 000 km/s), pushed not by fuel, and pressure of radiation of powerful lasers on Earth. Moving with these relativistic speeds, light sails on lasers could reach the next next star (to the Sun) Alpha Tsentavra, or the closest potentially manned planet of Proxima of Tsentavra of b, in only 20 years. Both objects are more than in four light years from us.

However design of light sails - the difficult engineering task demanding almost impossible: the ideal light sail has to have width in several meters and to be mechanically rather strong to maintain the intensive pressure of radiation, however its thickness has to be only 100 nanometers and weight - several grams. What is a light sail and in what complexity of his creation Other requirements follow from mechanisms of work of these most light sails. According to Maxwell's equations, light possesses an impulse and can put pressure upon objects. But light sails aren't just pushed by radiation pressure as a usual sail - wind force. Instead pressure is born because that the light sail reflects radiation. Therefore the optimum sail has to reflect the most part of radiation in a laser beam of a near infrared range and along with it to radiate on average an infrared range for effective cooling.

In the new research published in Nano Letters, scientists Ognyen Ilik, Cora Vent and Harry Etuoter from California Institute of Technology in Pasadena have shown that nanophoton structures can have the potential of satisfaction of strict requirements to material of which will do the sail capable to travel at okolosvetovy speeds.

If in the previous designs were used such materials as superthin aluminum, various polymers and carbon fiber, nanophoton structures can manipulate light at subwave scales, so at the same time resolve issues of effective pushing away (reflection) and distribution of heat (radiation). As an example scientists have shown two-layer sandwich from silicon and dioxide of silicon which have the set properties. Silicon possesses the high index of reflection - that develops into the effective movement, but badly cools down, and silicon dioxide perfectly cools down, but reflects worse.

in the future this concept can be used for minimization of restrictions of power of the laser and the size of the laser massif.

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