Researchers are developing photonic boats that will visit the Proxima Centauri

Une vue d'artiste d'une voile photonique. © Giovanni, Adobe Stock

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[EN VIDÉO] Kézako: How can a solar sail propel a spacecraft?
In space, a large enough surface can be pushed by photons from the sun. This is the principle of the solar boat, which was successfully tested in June 2015 by the Planetary Society. Unisciel and Lilly University 1 are a bold organization that explains to us during the episode of Kézako.

In 2016, we remember celebrating 55And Anniversary of the flight Yuri Gagarin On April 12, 1961, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced – with support Stephen Hawking – He starts a galaxy exploration project: Project Breakthrough Starshot. Starting the study of photonic nanowires powered by laser beams is a question. Stars Very close The sunIn the alpha centauri system.

We know this Star system Triple and is Extraterrestrials around the Proxima CentauriI.e. Alpha Centauri C is also called α Centauri C. The study reaches a significant area The speed of light There will still be time to take close-up pictures of these exoplanets and send them to Earth. It took about 20 years to reach the Alpha Centauri system using a photonic boat propelled by a laser beam sent from the Earth and towed by a probe weighing a few grams. So the policy is the same as already experienced Solar sail, Driven by the sun’s rays. Initially it took about 80,000 years to pass a study powered by conventional rocket engines. Groove About 4 Light years Alpha Centauri splits the system three times The Solar System.

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Presentation video of the Starshot project. Antennas that emit laser waves generate a network of kilometers, equivalent to the output of a space shuttle. By concentrating their beams and aiming at one or more photonic shields a few meters wide, they emit one pulse per day. Radiation pressure will accelerate the sail, and if the sail weighs less than 10 grams, it will reach a speed of about 20% of the speed of light very quickly. A swarm of such studies will set off in 20 years in the direction of Alpha Centauri. Their number will ensure that one of them arrives safely despite possible shocks by dust particles. © Euronews, YouTube

A photonic sail should not tear or melt

Research into the study and the sail that carries it to the stars has continued, and two papers have recently been published that may have somewhat altered the initial perception of the photonic boat. She has to endure Radiation pressure Laser beams and these should ensure the success of the mission between the stars in the future.Energy Is millions of times more intense than the sun and has already been used for such experiments Icarus solar sail (Kite-craft between planets accelerated by the sun’s radiation) This Japanese Jaxa mission, equivalent to NASA orESALaunched in 2010 and it was very successful.

However, the photonic veil, which can withstand the pressure of laser photons for 20 years, is three meters long and a thousand times thinner than a sheet.

Authors and researchers of two articles published in Nano letters, Explain first The photonic sail needs to be constructed from the sheet of UltraAluminum oxide And disulfide Molybdenum Swells under the breath of light and takes on a shape Parachute, Than flat as most previous research has speculated. The structure must be bent, it must be almost deep, it is capable of generating thousands of times more acceleration than it can support without tearing a pressure. Gravity Earthly.

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In one The second itemThe same researchers handled the problem Resistance For heat generated by a laser beam at least a million times more powerful than the sun. Even a small fraction of the energy scattered in the vessel, if it is absorbed, will heat up to the point of melting.

To avoid this, the sail must actually follow a grid-like structure. Wavelength Laser photons.

This sail should be made and tested with lasers to verify that the calculations and logics of the researchers are correct.

Astronomical research pays off with this promising object

Paris observation article published on 08/23/2020

In the same way Wind Raises the sails of the boat, a photonic sail is propelled by the light transmitting pressure. Traveling outside the Solar System, which is the suburbs of our beloved planet, will not soon be science fiction, but will be true. How? ‘Or’ What? Thanks to the aerofoil that has enough properties to make this dream come true. From the ISS, such Solar sail You can reach Mars in 60 days and escape from the solar system …

Air brushA type Carbon Integrated for the first time in 2012, new Subject Made Carbon nanotubes The back is intertwined. It is one of the lightest known materials, with a density of only 180 grams per cubic meter, approximately 7 times less dense.Wind We breathe (1225 g / m3) Its other notable property is its “darkness”, which means its ability to fully absorb light: one in 1,000 photons is reflected.

On the way to Alpha Centauri

These two properties make it an excellent material for the design of photonic boats: its excellent lightness and its ability to absorb photon energy that accelerates most efficiently when illuminated. By light. This light may be as light as in the Breakthrough Starshot concept or as sunlight as in this study.

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The Astronomers A sphere with a diameter of 1 meter and a thickness of 0.5 mm from the International Space Station ISS has been estimated to reach Mars in just 60 days. Pluto In just 4 years, without any motivation other than light The sun.

Due to its very low density, a spherical sail with a radius of 5 meters and a thickness of 0.1 mm can carry even 55 grams of payload fast enough to escape from the solar system.

Such a study would be an excellent precursor Interstellar work Our closest neighbors are Alpha Centauri and The Tellurik planet Its three component stars are located in the weakest habitable zone, Proxima Centauri B.

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