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    From carbon nanotubes the electronics for space colonies

    Electronics are also preparing for long space journeys to the Moon and Mars: circuits made with carbon nanotubes arrive to resist cosmic rays. In a work published on ACS Nano, a research group from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has analyzed all the advantages offered by carbon nanotubes to protect electronics from the many dangerous radiations that are faced during long stays in space and risk haywire electronic devices.

    One of the greatest dangers of long-duration space missions is the continuous bombardment of radiation to which it is subjected once it has come out of the ‘shield’ offered by the Earth’s magnetic field. A problem that is normally solved by equipping the probes with heavy protection systems capable of absorbing most of the dangerous particles usually arriving from the Sun. A new possibility now comes from carbon nanotubes, very thin cylinders made by ‘rolling’ a single sheet of graphene: perfect tubes with walls as thick as a single carbon atom.

    Carbon nanotubes have many interesting properties and a few years ago they made their debut in the development of transistors, in particular in the so-called field effect transistors, which are the most used in the world of electronics and computers. The MIT researchers have now for the first time tried to understand whether ‘doping’ the transistors with the addition of nanotubes also brings concrete advantages in improving resistance to cosmic radiation. To do this, they made transistors with different configurations of nanotubes combined with thin protective sheets based on titanium and platinum and verified the stability of the devices. Tests show that some of these solutions are able to protect electronics with very high efficiency, without having to use heavy extra shielding like those still used in space missions today. Very promising data that now suggests the use of carbon nanotubes for electronics that will serve in future space travel and long periods of stay in radiation-affected environments, such as the Moon and Mars.

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