Carbon Nanotube Field Electron Emitters Will Get Space Testing

A pair of carbon nanotube arrays will be flying in space by the end of the year to test technology that could provide more efficient micro-propulsion for future generations of spacecraft. Part of a Cube Satellite (CubeSat) developed by the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), the arrays will support what is expected to be the first-ever space-based testing of carbon nanotubes as electron emitters.

Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) produced the arrays using unique technology that grows bundles of vertically-aligned nanotubes embedded in silicon chips. In future versions of electrically-powered ion thrusters, electrons emitted from the carbon nanotube tips may be used to ionize a gaseous propellant such as xenon. The ionized gas would then be ejected through a nozzle to provide thrust for moving a satellite in space. (read more)