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Ninth Nanoforum Report:

Nanotechnology in

February 2007
Nanotechnology in Aerospace

February 2007

Editor: Ineke Malsch, Malsch TechnoValuation

Janusz D. Fidelus, Witold Lojkowski, Laboratory of Nanocrystalline
Materials, Institute of High Pressure Physics, Polish Academy of Science;
Małgorzata Lewandowska, Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering,
Warsaw University of Technology; Dariusz Bielinski, Faculty of Chemistry,
Technical University of Lodz; Ineke Malsch, Malsch TechnoValuation
(chapter 2)
Holger Hoffschulz, VDI-TZ GmbH; Ineke Malsch, Malsch TechnoValuation
(chapter 3)
Aline Charpentier, CEA-LETI – Minatec; Ineke Malsch, Malsch
TechnoValuation (chapter 4)
Kshitij Singh, Mark Morrison, IoN; Ineke Malsch, Malsch TechnoValuation
(chapter 5, 6)
Ana Proykova, MCG, University of Sofia; Ineke Malsch, Malsch
TechnoValuation (chapter 7, 8)
Acknowledgement: Reviewers:
Thierry Jamin, CNES (chapter 4) Christien Enzing, TNO; Paul E.
Rempes, Environmental Assurance, Boeing St. Louis, MO, USA (chapter 7),
Patrick Lin, Nanoethics; Jürgen Altmann, University of Bochum (chapter 8).

Nanoforum is a thematic network funded by the European
Commission's under the Fifth Framework Programme (Growth
programme, grant number G5RT-CT-2002-05084). The contents of
this report are the responsibility of the authors.
This report content is based on information collected and supplied
to Nanoforum in good faith by external sources believed to be
accurate. No responsibility is assumed by Nanoforum for errors,
inaccuracies or omissions. Care has been taken to include
references to the original source for all information included in the
report. Please notify the editor in case any reference is missing.

This Nanoforum report is downloadable from the network Website at


About Nanoforum

Nanoforum is a thematic network funded by the European Commission,

aiming to promote and raise the standard of nanotechnology activities
throughout Europe. Nanoforum comprises a consortium of leading
European nanotechnology organisations led by the Institute of
Nanotechnology (UK) and including VDI Technologiezentrum (Germany),
CEA-LETI (France), Malsch TechnoValuation (Netherlands), METU
(Turkey), Unipress (Poland), Sofia University (Bulgaria), Spinverse
(Finland), BIT (Austria) and NanoNed (The Netherlands). Nanoforum is an
information source for the European Community that unites disciplines
and countries. Nanoforum provides a resource for business, research,
government and financial institutions across Europe.

The present report is a publication of Nanoforum, published online at

Series: Nanoforum General Reports:

• 1st Nanoforum General Report: “Nanotechnology helps solve the
world’s energy problems”, first edition published in July 2003,
updated in December 2003 and April 2004.
• 2nd Nanoforum General Report: “Nanotechnology in the New EU
Member States and Candidate Countries; Who’s who and research
priorities”, first edition published in July 2003, updated in November
2003 and September 2005.
• 3rd Nanoforum General Report: “Nanotechnology and its implications
for the health of the EU citizen”, first edition published in December
• 4th Nanoforum General Report: “Benefits, Risks, Ethical, Legal and
Social Aspects of Nanotechnology”, first edition published in June
2004, updated in October 2005.
• 5th Nanoforum General Report: “Education Catalogue for Higher
Education in Nanotechnology”, published in March 2005.
• 6th Nanoforum General Report: “European Nanotechnology
Infrastructure and Networks”, published in July 2005.
• 7th Nanoforum General Report: “European Support for
Nanotechnology Small and Medium Sized Enterprises”, published in
December 2005.
• 8th Nanoforum General Report: “Nanometrology”, published in July

Other more specific Nanoforum publications:

“Nanotechnology in the EU – Bioanalytic and Biodiagnostic
Techniques”, published in September 2004.
Nanoforum and European Commission: “Outcome of the Open
Consultation on the European Strategy for Nanotechnology”,
published in December 2005.
“Funding and Support for International Nanotechnology
Collaborations”, published in December 2005, updated in July 2006.
“Nanotechnology in Agriculture and Food”, published in April 2006.
“Risk governance in nanotechnology”, published in September 2006.
“Nanotechnology in Consumer Products”, published in October 2006.
“Nanotechnology and Construction”, published in November 2006.
“Human enhancement from different perspectives”, published in
November 2006.
“Intellectual property in the nanotechnology economy”, published in
January 2007.
“Education in the Field of Nanoscience”, published in January 2007.

Series Socio-Economic reports:

• “VC Investment opportunities for small innovative companies.” April

• “Socio-economic report on Nanotechnology and Smart Materials for
Medical Devices”, December 2003.
• “SME participation in EU research programmes”, October 2004.

Series background studies to policy seminars:

• “Nanotechnology in the Nordic Region”, July 2003.
• “Nano-Scotland from a European perspective”, November 2003.
• Report from the ‘Nano and the environment’ workshop, Brussels, 30
and 31 March, 2006, published in May 2006.

Chapter 1 Executive summary and introduction

This 9th Nanoforum General report presents a concise introduction and

contribution to the expert debate on trends in nanomaterials and
nanotechnologies for applications in the civil aeronautics and space
sectors in Europe. We explicitly exclude any military R&D and applications,
as this falls outside the mandate of Nanoforum. Our target audiences are
twofold: non-experts of an academic level with a general interest in the
potential of nanotechnology for aerospace applications, and experts
involved in setting the strategic R&D agenda in this field. This chapter
should be helpful to decision makers in the EU, national governments, and
public and private R&D labs aiming to set priorities in R&D or funding

Chapter 2 reviews current trends in materials R&D on some selected

materials for applications in aeronautics and space. This chapter is written
from the perspective of materials scientists and includes information on
trends in materials and production processes. The focus is on Carbon
Nanotube reinforced polymers, metallic materials and polymer
nanocomposites. Carbon Nanotube reinforced polymers are investigated
for aerospace applications because of their good strength to weight ratio,
flame and vibration resistance, antistatic and electrical properties. Much
research is still needed before real applications in aerospace can be
expected. Nanometals are investigated for their hardness and suitability in
hard coatings. For cost-effective production, these materials must find
application by 2009 in sectors other than those of high value, such as
aerospace. The new nanometal production technology Severe Plastic
Deformation (SPD) promises higher strength, corrosion and wear
resistance and other benefits of nanometals compared to other metals.
However, this production technology must be developed further before it
can be applied in industrial production. Relevant projects are ongoing.
There are three relevant types of polymer nanocomposites: layered
silicate (clay); nanofibre / carbon nanotube filled polymer composites; and
high performance polymer nanocomposite resins. Layered silicate polymer
nanocomposites are investigated for a wide range of applications including
flame retardant panels and high performance components in aerospace.
Carbon nanotube filled polymer composites are still in the research phase
but are seen as promising for aerospace applications. Aerospace
applications of high performance polymer nanocomposite resins need the
successful incorporation of the nanoparticles in thermoset resins. This
chapter may be most interesting for materials scientists or those who
intend to apply nanomaterials in aerospace applications.

Chapter 3 presents a review of the state of the art of nanotechnology for

aeronautics applications and analysis of future trends. We limit ourselves
to civil aviation and airplanes. Aircraft companies are investigating new

materials for application in airplanes to accommodate the expected growth
in passenger numbers of 5% per year for the coming 20 years and taking
into account more stringent legislation including environmental, health
and safety regulations. These trends impose the objective of developing
lighter materials with equal or improved robustness as current materials
used in aerospace (corrosion resistance, damage tolerance, ability to be
repaired). Leading companies including Boeing, Airbus and British
Aerospace are collaborating with universities and research centres on
projects to develop nanotechnology for aerospace. Nanotechnology is
currently not incorporated in aircraft, but is expected to enter the market
in the coming years. The stringent safety requirements, conservative
attitude in the industry and need for industrial scale production processes
contribute to a longer time to market than in other sectors.
Nanomaterials and nanoelectronics can be applied in airframes and
components, coatings, engines, sensors, electrical and electronic
components and hardware and other applications. They are being
investigated for uptake in aircraft on a large scale. Foreseen benefits
include cost reduction, reduced environmental burden and enhanced
passenger comfort. Uptake of nanomaterials and nanoelectronics in
aircraft may be slower than in other sectors, but there is clear interest
from the industry. This chapter may be most interesting to researchers
and policy makers in nanotechnology and in aeronautics research.

Chapter 4 presents a review of the state of the art of nanotechnology for

spacecraft applications and analysis of future trends. The space sector
deals with all technologies needed for travelling outside the earth
atmosphere. This includes satellites, rockets, international space station
and planetary missions, science payloads and futuristic visions such as the
space elevator. Two developments in space are driving technology
developments. National ambitions to explore outer space drive the quest
for more autonomous systems as well as better life support for
astronauts. Commercial activities making use of space require cost and
weight reduction. Technologies are also being developed for existing
issues such as radiation protection, extreme and varying temperatures
and improved engines. Nanotechnology can be applied in new materials,
electronics and energy supply for future spacecraft. Nanomaterials are
being investigated for their thermal, electrical and optical characteristics
as well as strength and cost effectiveness. Research focuses on
nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes for mixing into polymers and
composites, and smart materials. Spacecraft electronics can benefit from
the fast innovation in the electronics industry sector. Onboard electronics
must in addition be radiation resistant, thus incorporating carbon
nanotubes which are relatively radiation resistant, in electronics may be
especially attractive for space applications. Space research is more
focused on applied electronics such as sensors. A bottleneck for the
uptake of nanomaterials and nanoelectronics in spacecraft is the need to
develop efficient characterisation and modelling tools for testing the
materials and devices. Efficient energy generation and storage is very

important for rockets as well as other spacecraft. Nanotechnologies can
improve the existing energy generation and storage technologies,
including propellants, solar cells, fuel cells and hydrogen storage, and
batteries. Life support is becoming more important due to longer manned
missions and space tourism. Keeping the air breathable, maintaining a
clean water supply, controlling temperature, air humidity and the health of
the astronauts can benefit from nanotechnologies applied in gas storage,
waste water treatment and sensors. These technologies are mainly
developed for the electronics and medical sectors and adapted for
application in space.
Satellites can be used for scientific observation of the earth or universe
and for communication. The main trend in research is the quest to build
more integrated and smaller nano/pico satellites. Relevant
nanotechnologies include carbon nanotube based sensors, nanosensors,
nanoparticles for imaging instruments and quantum information. Futuristic
visions include the space elevator based on a long cable spun from carbon
nanotubes and space colonisation. Autonomous systems such as satellite
swarms and nanorobotics may one day be used in exploring other planets.
Nanotechnologies are attractive for the space sector as they enable a
reduction in costs, novel space missions, testing of new technologies in
space and futuristic visions. Applications are foreseen in 0-5, 5-10 and 10-
15 years in space devices, subsystems and systems. This chapter may be
most interesting for researchers and policy makers in nanotechnology and
in the space sector.

Chapter 5 summarises expressed needs for future R&D for nanomaterials

and nanotechnologies for aeronautics and spacecraft. The focus is on gaps
in current research and needs for technical performance of available
materials and devices which are critical enablers of future aeronautic and
space systems. On a general level, there is a need to educate sufficient
numbers of qualified scientists and engineers to work in R&D for the
aerospace sector in Europe. Another general issue is the lack of
cooperation between companies and research organisations in aerospace
and in nanotechnology. SMEs in the supply chain will have to implement
performance enhancing practices. To identify technical needs for future
aeronautics, the goals set by the advisory council for aeronautic research
in Europe in their Strategic Research Agenda are taken as reference.
These technical requirements address quality and affordability,
environment, security, safety and air transport efficiency. Relevant on-
board nanotechnologies can be applied in airframes; propulsion; aircraft
avionics, systems and equipment. Nanotechnology may be applied in
aircraft some twenty years after the technologies have been validated for
New research needs for nanotechnology applications in space include
nanomaterials for spacecraft structure and energy production and storage
including solar cells, fuel cells, batteries and accumulators and capacitors.
Other nanotechnology research needs are in data storage, processing and
transmission; life support systems; and nanomaterials and thin films for

spacecraft. Visionary applications of nanotechnology in space include
molecular nanotechnology and electronics for space, the space elevator,
nano and pico satellites, the gossamer spacecraft and space solar power.
Choices of priorities in nanotechnology R&D for space must be based on
the technological readiness and applicability. The R&D is expected to take
a decade before being implemented in spacecraft. This chapter may be
most interesting for decision makers on future research priorities in
nanotechnology and in aerospace.

Chapter 6 consists of an economic analysis of the European aerospace

sectors. The European Commission’s Aerospace policy (STAR21, 2002)
aims for a strong competitive position of Europe’s aerospace industry and
for combined public and private funding for civil aeronautics of €100 billion
by 2020. The major manufacturers for aviation are Airbus in Europe and
Boeing in the US, with other important global players in Russia, Brazil,
Canada and Ukraine.
The global market for airline passenger traffic is expected to increase
5.3% per year until 2023. Airbus expects a need for 16,601 new
passenger aircraft, in smaller aircraft in the EU market and larger ones in
Asia Pacific. The expected market size is €1.48 trillion. Europe’s market
size is expected to remain constant, the US will decline and Asia will
increase its market share. The European Technology Platform ACARE
states that the investment in R&D by the private sector in Europe is
comparable to the US, while the European public funding is only 25% of
US public funding. Keeping sufficient qualified human capital and industrial
companies in Europe requires a coordinated effort by the EU and member
states. They have developed a strategic research agenda to accomplish
Space exploration and exploitation are seen as major goals for many
countries. Budgets amount to billions of euros per year. The European
Space Agency intends to use new systems, new architectures and to
explore technologies to reinvent the design of space missions. The US
aims for space exploration are in manned missions to the moon and Mars,
and homeland security and defence. Russia still launches the most
spacecraft, and intends to develop a new, reusable spacecraft and
collaborate with the EU on satellite navigation and science and technology.
China has put a person in space, and wants to send missions to the moon.
It is negotiating with Russia and the EU about space collaborations. Japan
and India also have space policies.
Research in nanotechnology for aerospace applications has already led to
62 patented inventions in materials, surface treatment and coatings,
engine components, batteries, propellants, and electronics. Of these
patents, 23 are registered in the USA and 17 in European countries. SMEs
provide services and additional expertise in R&D to major corporations.
Several EU funded projects support SME’s in the aerospace sector. This
chapter may be most interesting for industrialists and economic and
innovation policymakers.

Chapter 7 analyses the environment, health and safety aspects of
nanotechnology for aerospace. The debate on these aspects of engineered
nanomaterials specific for applications in the aerospace sector is only just
emerging. General toxicology of engineered nanomaterials and
occupational nanosafety issues are also applicable to the aerospace
sector. These “nanorisk” research projects which are starting now must be
complemented with specific life-cycle analyses and exposure scenarios for
applications in aircraft and spacecraft. Potential benefits of
nanotechnology in aerospace for the environment, health and safety are
also being discussed. To enhance the likelihood of positive impacts, better
implementation strategies must be developed. This chapter may be most
interesting for risk assessment specialists and policymakers on

Chapter 8 analyses the ethical, legal and social aspects of nanotechnology

for civilian aerospace. On the one hand, the current international treaties
and national legislation governing the aeronautics and space sector
impose boundaries on the nanoscience and nanotechnology research
which can be done for aerospace applications. On the other hand,
developments in aerospace and in nanoscience and nanotechnology
enable new activities and systems which were not possible before. Small
satellites in earth orbit can be applied in telecommunication and earth
observation for peaceful as well as security applications. In the very long
term, space exploration may also be enabled by miniaturisation and
nanotechnology. The ethical, legal and social implications of unmanned air
and spacecraft need to be discussed. However, the review of these issues
in the framework of this report is very partial. Further research is needed
which is not restricted to civilian applications, and also investigates the
legislative framework for aeronautics. Education and outreach must
include information and debate about ethical, legal and social aspects of
nanotechnology in aerospace. This chapter may be most interesting for
nanoscience & society experts and policymakers in nanoregulation and
public dialogue.

Table 1.1 summarising trends in the whole report.

Level of integration 0-5 years 5-10 years >10 years

Societal boundary Current treaties and More stringent Global & national
conditions for regulations guide regulations incl. EHS aims: space
nanotechnology in nanotechnology regulations require exploration &
aerospace R&D (ch8) (nano) innovations exploitation (ch6)
in aeronautics (ch3)
Nanotoxicology and Aircraft passenger
occupational numbers will
nanosafety research increase by
ongoing (ch7) 5%/year until 2023
Impact of Need to start life Need action to Nanotechnology
nanotechnology in cycle analysis & stimulate EHS applications in
aerospace on exposure scenarios benefits of aerospace will
society for aerospace nanotechnology for enable new
applications of aerospace (ch7) activities and
nanomaterials (ch7) require changes in
legislation (ch8)
applications in
aerospace will
enable new
activities and
require changes in
legislation (ch8)
Economic factors Space budgets European public and
affecting amount to billions of private aeronautic
nanotechnology euros per year (ch6) R&D funding €100
uptake in aerospace billion by 2020 (ch6,
EU stimulates SMEs 2023: 16,601 new
in space sector aircraft needed,
(ch6) market size €1.48
trillion (ch6, Airbus)
Technical system Nano/picosatellites Russia: new ESA: new systems,
(ch4) reusable spacecraft architectures &
(ch6) technologies to
reinvent design of
space missions
Satellite on chip, Aircraft weight half
autonomous of current
satellites swarm conventional (ch3,
(ch4) NASA 2001)
Space elevator,
nanorobot swarm
Technical subsystem Black box using 2015: fuel cells for Quantum devices
nanosensors, CNT onboard aircraft for information
based electronic systems (ch3, management (ch4)
noses; CNT based Boeing, ch4)
lab on a

chip/biochip (ch4)
Battery using
quantum dot solar
cells, drug delivery,
CNT based imaging
instruments (ch4)
Material / 2009: apply metallic Industrial scale 2020: over 163
component materials in mass Severe Plastic million kg
markets (ch2, Lux Deformation process nanomaterials in
2006) for metallic composites, value
nanomaterials? $2 billion (ch2,
(ch2) Freedonia, 2006)
2006: 62 patented Need for lighter, 2020: 40% of
inventions of stronger materials nanoclay/CNT
nanotech for for aeronautics polymer composites
aerospace (ch6) (ch3) will be applied in
aerospace (ch2,
Freedonia, 2006)
Clay-polymer CNT filled polymer Smart materials, bio
nanocomposites for composites (ch2,4) memory (ch4)
flame retardant CNT reinforcing
panels and high coatings, CNT in
performance transistors, CNT
components in based memory,
aerospace (ch2) MRAM (ch4)
Nanoparticles High performance
reinforcing polymers polymer
and composites, nanocomposite
nanoparticles in resins (ch2)
propellants (ch 4)
Smart textiles (ch4)

Table of contents:

Nanotechnology in Aerospace ............................................................. 2

Chapter 1 Executive summary and introduction .................................... 6
Chapter 2 – Nanomaterials in Aerospace............................................ 16
2.1 Introduction........................................................................... 16
2.2 Advancement of Nanotube-Reinforced Composites...................... 16
2.3. Nanostructured metals ........................................................... 17
2.4 The advancement of severe plastic deformation ......................... 18
2.5 The projects related to aircraft company business ...................... 19
2.6 Publications and Conferences ................................................... 20
2.7 Polymer Nanocomposites......................................................... 20
2.7.1 Introduction ..................................................................... 21
2.7.2 Definitions ....................................................................... 21
2.7.3 Classification .................................................................... 22 Layered silicate (clay) nanocomposites ............................. 22 Nanofibres/carbon nanotube in polymer nanocomposites .... 23 high-performance PNCs resins ......................................... 26
Chapter 3: Review of state of the art of technology and future trends in
Aeronautics.................................................................................... 28
3.1. Airframe and components....................................................... 30
3.2. Coatings............................................................................... 34
3.3. Engines ................................................................................ 36
3.4. Sensors................................................................................ 37
3.5. Electrical/electronic components and hardware ......................... 38
3.6. Others ................................................................................. 39
3.7. Conclusion ............................................................................ 39
Chapter 4 Review of state of the art of technology and future trends in
Spacecraft ..................................................................................... 40
4.1 Introduction........................................................................... 40
4.2 Materials ............................................................................... 42
4.2.1. Nanoelements ................................................................. 43 Materials using nanoelements ......................................... 45
4.2.2 Materials conclusion .......................................................... 49
4.3. Electronics ............................................................................ 49
4.3.1 Carbon nanotubes for transistors ...................................... 50
4.3.2 Memories / Data storage................................................. 51
4.3.4 Electronics conclusion........................................................ 53
4.4. Energy generation and storage................................................ 54
4.4.1. Propellants ...................................................................... 54
4.4.2. Solar cells ....................................................................... 55
4.4.3. Fuel cells ........................................................................ 56
4.4.4. Batteries ......................................................................... 58
4.4.5 Energy conclusion ............................................................. 58
4.5. Life support .......................................................................... 59
4.5.1. Global life support............................................................ 59

4.5.2. Medical systems .............................................................. 60
4.5.3. Textile ............................................................................ 63
4.5.4 Life support conclusion ...................................................... 63
4.6. Satellites / Science payloads ................................................... 64
4.6.1. Satellite subsystems......................................................... 67
4.6.2. Science payloads ............................................................. 68
4.6.3 Satellites / Payloads conclusion: ......................................... 72
4.7. Futuristic visions ................................................................... 72
4.7.1. Space elevator................................................................. 73
4.7.2. Space colonisation ........................................................... 74
4.7.3. Autonomous systems ....................................................... 75
4.7.4 Futuristic visions conclusion ............................................... 77
4.8 Conclusion ............................................................................. 77
Chapter 5: Summary of Needs in Aerospace Research ......................... 80
5.1 Aeronautics ........................................................................... 80
5.1.2 Airframes ......................................................................... 81
5.1.3 Propulsion ........................................................................ 81
5.1.4 Aircraft avionics, systems and equipment............................. 82
5.1.5 Environment..................................................................... 83
5.1.6 Safety and Security........................................................... 84
5.1.7 Quality and affordability..................................................... 85
5.1.8 European Air Transport System .......................................... 86
5.1.9 Future concepts for Guidance & Control ............................... 86
5.1.10 Current Research ............................................................ 86
5.1.11 Aeronautics application in other industries.......................... 88
5.1.12 Funding and investment................................................... 89
5.1.13 Policy............................................................................. 89
5.1.14 Education and Training .................................................... 89
5.1.15 SME .............................................................................. 90
5.1.16 Conclusion ..................................................................... 90
5.2 Statement of needs for Research and Development in Space ....... 90
5.2.1 Introduction ..................................................................... 90
5.2.2 Nanomaterials for space craft structure ............................... 92
5.2.3 Energy Production and Storage........................................... 94
5.2.4 Data Storage, Processing and Transmission.......................... 95
5.2.5 Sensors ........................................................................... 98
5.2.6 Life support systems ......................................................... 99
5.2.7 Nanomaterials and thin films for spacecraft ........................ 100
5.2.8 Visionary Applications...................................................... 101
5.2.9 Conclusion ..................................................................... 103
Chapter 6: Economic Aspects ......................................................... 105
6.1 Introduction......................................................................... 105
6.2 Aviation............................................................................... 105
6.2.1 Global markets in the aviation industry.............................. 107
6.3 Space ................................................................................. 111
6.4 How can Nanotechnology Impact on these Strategies? .............. 114
6.4.1 Patenting of Nanotechnology Advances that have Applications in
the Aerospace Industry ............................................................ 114

6.5 Role of SMEs........................................................................ 118
6.6 Conclusions ......................................................................... 118
Chapter 7: Environment, Health and Safety Aspects.......................... 120
7.1 Introduction......................................................................... 120
7.2 EHS risks............................................................................. 121
7.2.1 Health risks.................................................................... 123
7.2.2 Safety risks .................................................................... 123
7.3 Environmental benefits.......................................................... 123
7.4 Health benefits..................................................................... 125
7.5 Safety benefits ..................................................................... 125
7.6 EHS Regulation .................................................................... 125
7.7 Conclusion ........................................................................... 127
Chapter 8: Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects .................................... 129
8.1 Introduction......................................................................... 129
8.2 Regulations.......................................................................... 130
8.3 Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects ............................................ 133
8.4 Conclusion ........................................................................... 135
References................................................................................... 137

Chapter 2 – Nanomaterials in Aerospace

2.1 Introduction

This chapter identifies some of the technical challenges and the key
research efforts in the field of nanomaterials for aerospace applications.
Specifically, it focuses on carbon nanotube-reinforced polymers and
materials produced by severe plastic deformation (SPD). Selected
European projects and world conferences related to aerospace are
included. The state of the art of polymer nanocomposite research is also

In the aerospace industry, there is a great need for new materials which
exhibit improved mechanical properties. Materials possessing high
strength at a reduced mass and size make lighter aircraft with lower fuel
consumption. The development of new materials with tailored properties is
a primary goal of today’s materials science and engineering.

However, the possibility of obtaining improved mechanical properties by

the conventional methods of cold working, solution hardening,
precipitation hardening, etc., has been almost exhausted. The current
trend is to integrate intelligence and multifunctionality into the varied
components of aerospace systems and vehicles.

The 6th EU Framework Project ‘NanoRoadSME (Nanomaterial Roadmap

2015)’ has published a report entitled “Overview on Promising
Nanomaterials for Industrial Application”. This report identifies the
following trends in materials for automotive and aerospace applications:
lighter and stronger materials, transparent windshield, lacquer safety and
polymer matrix composites. Also included in the report are the projected
cost and market evolution of each material’s technology, the timelines for
possible industrial applications, and a list of companies and institutes
actively involved in aerospace nanomaterial R&D.

2.2 Advancement of Nanotube-Reinforced Composites

The extraordinary stiffness, higher than that of diamond (ten times higher
than that of any other available material), high toughness, changeable
conductivity and the specific tensile strength of carbon nanotubes (CNTs)
makes them eminently suited as reinforcing elements in macroscopic

With a potential high strength-to-weight ratio and multifunctionality,

carbon nanotube reinforced polymer composites may provide a unique

option for the aviation industry. Their use can enhance a material’s ability
to resist vibration and fire (Nano letters, 2006, Nature Materials, 2005).

Minute amounts give polymers antistatic properties, while concentrations

as low as 1% total weight trigger electrical conductivity. The intimate
relationship between the electrical and mechanical properties of these
composites enables them to exhibit smart capabilities (Chipara, 2005).

A recent review article identified four critical requirements for effective

fibre reinforcement of composite materials: a large aspect ratio, transfer
of interfacial stress, a good dispersion, and alignment (Advanced
Materials, 2006). While carbon nanotubes typically have very high aspect
ratios, their absolute lengths are still low, which makes them difficult to
manipulate and process. Moreover, the high cost and relatively short
lengths of CNTs combined with an inability to effectively disperse and
align them within a host matrix, currently preclude the development of
composite structures that could supplement or replace conventional
aerospace components.

However, there are a number of research efforts underway that address

these and other concerns. Investigators worldwide are in pursuit of
advanced synthesis processes to facilitate large-scale production of CNTs
of macroscopic lengths, while others are focusing on combining shorter
CNTs into longer and more useable composite fibres.

Functionalisation and irradiation of polymer-embedded nanotubes and

nanotube fibres also have been shown to enhance dispersion and
strengthen nanotube-matrix interactions, allowing for further
improvement of the mechanical properties of CNT-reinforced composites.

Despite these efforts, much additional R&D is still needed to realize the
full potential and implementation of these advanced composites (Taczak,

2.3. Nanostructured metals

Nanostructured metals have nanosized grains, which gives them greater

strength and hardness. Heralded as alternatives to toxic materials like
chromium for coatings and for structural applications, their use can be
hampered by their increased brittleness and complex processing

Nanostructured metals can provide very hard coatings that are resistant to
corrosion, useful for applications including aerospace components, such as
landing gear and construction equipment such as drill bits and bulldozer

Low volume, high margin applications for the aerospace and defence
industries, and high-end sporting goods are largely driving the
development of nanostructured materials. However, for real success there
is a need to start establishing customers in other areas by 2009 (Lux,

2.4 The advancement of severe plastic deformation

The possibility of improving the properties of metallic materials by the

conventional methods of cold working, solution hardening, precipitation
hardening, etc., has been almost exhausted. According to the well known
Hall-Petch relationship, the yield strength is a linear function of the
inverse of the square root of grain diameter (d-1/2) which implies a 10
times higher grain boundary strengthening when the grain size is reduced
by 2 orders of magnitude. One can expect that intensive grain refinement
down to the nanometre scale will lead to a rapid increase in strength.
Grain refinement down to the nanometre scale thus offers good prospects
for a new generation of high strength materials.

To produce such high strength, nanocrystalline materials, the

development of new processing methods is necessary. Nanomaterials can
be produced following bottom-up methods (such as inert gas
condensation, consolidation of nanopowders, electro deposition or
crystallization from an amorphous state), but it is only possible to produce
small items of such materials, usually with a diameter and length no
greater than a few millimetres. Therefore, it is probable that only a top-
down approach can offer good “technological” prospects. Such a concept
consists in the transformation of metals or alloys possessing a
conventional grain size into bulk materials with a submicron- or nanoscale
structure by the application of severe plastic deformation (SPD). The
advantages of the SPD methods are: (i) a 100% dense nanostructured
material is obtained, (ii) conventional materials are used as precursors,
(iii) there are no toxicological issues involving the use of nanopowders.
Thus, research in this field has attracted the attention of numerous
scientific groups throughout the world including representative European

With the growing experimental evidence, it can be concluded that for

some cases SPD in processed materials may exhibit very high strength
combined with acceptable ductility. In some cases superplastic behaviour
was observed. Other papers reported increased high cycle fatigue life,
enhanced charging capacity and diffusion rate of hydrogen, improved
corrosion and wear resistance. Such excellent properties cannot be
achieved using conventional fabrication techniques. SPD processed
nanometals are thus prospective materials for many structural and
functional applications in the aerospace industry.

There is clearly a great potential for bulk nanostructured materials,
particularly in the aerospace industry. However, there are some
limitations to their wider use which result from the current restrictions on
the cost and size of SPD processed elements. One of the routes to ease
these restrictions is offered by a modification of existing SPD techniques.
Another route aims at the development of new methods. Finally, it must
be stated that to introduce products having a nanometal structure into the
market, will need a major research and development effort in order to
fully explore and understand the specific properties of SPD materials and
to optimize the processing route for particular applications.

2.5 The projects related to aircraft company business

Airbus Industries and the MITRE Corporation’s Centre for Advanced

Aviation System Development (CAASD) (O’Donnell) are focused on
obtaining the highest performance, a ‘maintenance-free’ airframe and
environmental friendliness. However, although nanotechnologies promise
significant benefits for aerospace applications, mature and robust
solutions are mandatory.

For this purpose, in order to meet future challenges and to incorporate

worldwide best state-of the-art technological solutions, cooperation with
external suppliers and strategic partners is essential.

For example, the Airbus Industry in Stade is interested in manufacturing

some composite parts (vertical stabilisers, pressure bulk heads, etc.) for
all types of aircraft.

The Value Improvement through a Virtual Aeronautical Collaborative

Enterprise (VIVACE) consortium is a €70 Million European Project which is
led by Airbus, and includes 50 partners, all of which are well recognised
names in the aerospace and IT industries. The global aims of VIVACE are
to reduce the time to market, an increased integration of the supply chain
and substantial reduction of the operating costs.

The project entitled: “Nano-Structured and Reinforced Composite

Materials” is being undertaken at Imperial College London (2006). This
project pursues a range of approaches to nano-reinforcement of polymer
composites, including CNT-reinforced polymer fibres, CNT-grafted carbon
fibres, and CNT reinforced thermoset resins. The research also includes
micromechanical modelling of CNT reinforced composites and feasibility
studies into future exploitation routes. The project is collaboration
between three departments within the College – Aeronautics, Chemistry,
and Chemical Engineering. QinetiQ of Farnbourough in Hampshire, UK also
collaborates in the project.

The project entitled: “Self-Healing Intermetallics (Metal, Polymer) Matrix

Composites” is taking place at universities in the Netherlands to develop

new concepts in design and to apply self-healing mechanisms in the
context of intermetallic alloys and intermetallic-based composite

Owing to increased efforts in the areas of materials and process

development, design, manufacturing (scale-up), and certification of MMCs
(Metal-matrix composites) a number of key applications are now a well
established reality for aeronautical applications. A very obvious motivation
in introducing MMCs into aeronautical systems is the optimal balance of
specific strength and stiffness compared with other competing structural

The possibility of integrating intermetallic phases, which exhibit self-

healing properties, e.g., yield stress anomaly (YSA) or the formation of an
oxygen diffusion barrier (OBD) into a (metal, polymer) matrix remains
almost uncharted territory. However, it certainly constitutes a very fine
engineering modelling system of potentially great relevance for
aeronautical applications.

The INTAS project “Nanocomposite sliding bearings for air bleed valves”
(NANOBLEBUS, 2005-2007) aims to develop new nanocomposite materials
for the production of sliding bearing sleeves used in the (A380) AIRBUS
aircraft air conditioning system.

2.6 Publications and Conferences

CNT-NET and NANOCOMP are two networks funded by the European Union
that address the subject of nanotube and nanofibre polymer composites
from different perspectives, though both aim to stimulate the
understanding and application of such systems (Shaffer & Kinloch, 2004).

Cientifica, an international nanotechnology consulting firm, recently

published a report entitled, “Nanotubes for the Composites Market.” This
report addresses carbon nanotube applications for composites, if and
when nanotubes will replace carbon fibre, and why carbon nanotubes still
remain prohibitively expensive. Also included are a market analysis, a
prospectus covering the years 2005 to 2010 and an extensive worldwide
list of nanotube suppliers.

In 2003, the 1st annual Nano Materials for Aerospace Symposium was
held in Corpus Christi, Texas. This conference series has since been
renamed Nanomaterials for Defence Applications and the latest meeting
was in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in May 2006. The next meeting will occur
in May 2007 in San Diego, CA.

2.7 Polymer Nanocomposites

2.7.1 Introduction

The reinforcement of polymers (thermoplastics, thermosets, elastomers)

using fillers, whether inorganic or organic, is common in the production of
modern plastics. Polymer composites are strong, yet remarkably
lightweight and so they are leading the field in aerospace applications.
This is all down to the fact that researchers are always looking for ways to
reduce the amount of fuel needed for flights and a key way of achieving
that is by reducing the weight of the aircraft itself. Similarly, the amount
of energy needed to propel an object into space means that spacecraft
must be even stronger and lighter, plus the harsh and varied conditions
they face will put even the best materials to the test.
By 2020, more than 163 million kg of nanomaterials, valued at $2 billion,
will be used to produce nanocomposites, with demands for nanotubes
alone exceeding $1 billion (Freedonia Group, 2006). Advances will be
fuelled by declining prices of nanomaterials and composites, as production
levels increase and technical issues concerning dispersion of nano-
additives in compounds are overcome. Over the near term, growth will be
the fastest in higher-priced resins such as engineered plastics and
thermoplastic elastomers as much of the initial demand will be in higher-
end applications. Eventually, however, nanocomposites based on
commodity plastics, such as polypropylene, polyethylene and PVC, will
dominate the market. While nearly all of the current demand is in
thermoplastic resins, nanocomposites based on thermosets will grow to
over 20% of the market by 2020. Unsaturated polyester will become the
primary thermoset used in nanocomposites, as nanomaterial additives will
increasingly enhance or replace glass fibre-reinforced materials in a
number of applications. Apart from packaging and motor vehicles, aircraft
is a key market for nanoclay- and nanotube-polymer composites. It will
remain important through the end of the next decade, accounting for
nearly 40% of demand in 2020. Polymer nanocomposites are expected to
penetrate a number of applications, driven by their improved barrier,
strength and conductive properties, as well as reduced weight, possibility
to increase production speed of parts and to replace higher-priced
materials. 22-23rd of February, 2007 in San Antonio, Texas, USA, an
international conference “The Future of Nanoplastics” has been organised.
Up-to-date information on polymer materials (among them
nanocomposites) for aerospace applications is currently provided by

2.7.2 Definitions

Polymer nanocomposites - PNCs (or polymer nanostructured materials)

represent an alternative to conventional-filled polymers or polymer
blends. In contrast to the conventional systems, where the reinforcement
is on the order of microns, PNCs take advantage from unique effects of
the addition of nanometre-sized inorganic materials to a polymer matrix.

These effects however, are driven not only by the small size but unusual
shapes and aspect ratios (L/h > 300) of the additives and include
extraordinarily high interfacial areas or highly aligned phases of the
additive. Due to their efficiency, nanofillers can be used in small quantities
(less than 5% by weight). The constituent inorganic additives can be
applied in a form of particles, tubes and wires, two-dimensional platelets
and porous materials. Their application brings improvements in
mechanical strength and aging resistance, reduction of wear and
flammability, barrier to diffusion, optical transparency, and unprecedented
morphologies such as interpenetrating networks. However, from both a
commercial and military perspective, the value of PNCs technology is not
based solely on mechanical enhancements of the neat resin. Rather, it
comes from providing value-added properties not present in the neat
resin, without sacrificing the inherent processability and mechanical
properties of the resin. Traditionally, blend or composite attempts at
multifunctional materials require a trade-off between desired
performance, mechanical properties, cost, and processability.
Researchers developed two main PNCs fabrication methodologies: in-situ
routes and exfoliation. Currently, researchers in industry, government,
and academia worldwide are heavily investigating exfoliation of layered
silicates, carbon nanofibres/nanotube-polymer nanocomposites, and high-
performance PNCs resins (AFRL Horizons).

2.7.3 Classification

In general, polymer nanocomposites fall into three categories, depending

on the form of nanoparticles being used: layered silicate or nanofibres /
carbon nanotube-polymer nanocomposites and high-performance PNCs
resins. Layered silicate (clay) nanocomposites

These minerals considerably increase the mechanical and thermal

properties of standard polymers, offering improvements over conventional
composites in mechanical, tribological, thermal, electrical and barrier
properties. Furthermore, they can significantly reduce flammability and
maintain the transparency of a polymer matrix. Loading levels of 2-5% by
weight result in mechanical properties similar to those found in
conventional composites with 30-40% of reinforcing material.
The attractive characteristics of layered silicate nanocomposites already
suggest a variety of possible industrial applications for layered silicate
(clay) nanocomposites, including flame retardant panels and high
performance components for aerospace.
The special properties of clay-polymer nanocomposites expand the use of
resins and blends based on polyolefins, styrenics, polyamides or

polyesters. Other PNCs are also based on thermosets, including epoxies,
unsaturated polyesters and polyurethanes.

Fig. 2.1 Layered silicate nanocomposite (IMI, AFRL) Nanofibres/carbon nanotube in polymer


A literature search provides many examples of PNCs, demonstrating

substantial improvements in mechanical and physical properties. However,
the nanocomposite properties discussed are generally compared to
unfilled and conventional-filled polymers, but are not compared to
continuous fibre reinforced composites. Although PNCs may provide
enhanced, multifunctional matrix resins, they should not be considered a
potential one-for-one replacement for current state-of-the-art carbon-fibre
reinforced composites.
The key to any of fabrication processes is the engineering of the polymer-
nanoparticle interface where researchers commonly use surfactants.
These range from small molecules ionically associated with the
nanoparticle surface for layered silicates to chemically bound small
molecules or physi-absorbed polymers for nanotubes. These surface
modifiers mediate interlayer interactions by effectively lowering the
interfacial free energy. Furthermore, they may serve to catalyze interfacial
interactions, initiate polymerizations, or serve as anchoring points for the
matrix and thereby improve the strength of the interface between the
polymer and inorganic. However, the choice of the optimal modifier is at
best empirical to date.
The following points are evident about nanotube / polymer composites
(Moniruzzaman & Winey, 2006):
The properties of nanotube / polymer composites depend on a multitude
of factors that include the type (SWNT, DWNT, MWNT), chirality, purity,
defect density, and dimensions (length and diameter) of the nanotubes,
nanotube loading, dispersion state and alignment of nanotubes in the
polymer matrix, and the interfacial adhesion between the nanotube and

the polymer matrix. These factors should be taken into account when
reporting, interpreting, and comparing results from nanotube / polymer
Functionalisation of nanotubes provides a convenient route to improve
dispersion and modify interfacial properties that may in turn improve the
properties of nanocomposites, especially mechanical properties. The
significant progress in nanotube functionalisation chemistry in recent
years ensures that this approach will become more prevalent.
Quantifying nanotube dispersion in polymers (and solvents) is an
inherently challenging problem because it involves a range of length
scales, and thereby multiple experimental methods are required.
Fortunately, new experimental methods are applied to the problem, such
as a fluorescence method to non-destructively detect isolated SWNT in a
polymer matrix.
Nanotubes have clearly demonstrated their capability as conductive
fillers in polymer nanocomposites. Further advances with respect to
electrical conductivity in nanotube / polymer composites are likely if only
(or predominantly) metallic nanotubes could be used in the
nanocomposites. Two approaches are actively being pursued in SWNT
materials: modify the synthetic route to preferentially produce metallic
nanotubes and sort the existing nanotubes.
The physical properties of nanotube /polymer composites can be
interpreted in terms of nanotube networks, which are readily detected by
electrical and rheological property measurements. The nanotube network
provides electrical conduction pathways above the percolation threshold,
where the percolation threshold depends on both concentration and
nanotube alignment. The nanotube network also significantly increases
the viscosity of the polymer and slows thermal degradation. In contrast,
it remains a challenge to reduce the interfacial thermal resistance of
these nanotube networks, so as to take advantage of the high thermal
conductivity of individual nanotubes in a polymer composite system.
The shielding effectiveness and electrical conductivity of carbon fibre-
reinforced epoxy composites were investigated both theoretically and
experimentally. The effects of fibre orientation and total composite
thickness on shielding effectiveness were examined by electrical
measurements and theoretical modelling and the dominant mechanism of
electromagnetic interference shielding identified as absorption (Abdalla et
al, 2006). Unidirectional carbon fibre reinforced epoxy straps were also
proposed as fatigue crack growth retarders for aircraft construction
(Colavita et al, 2006).
Nickel nanostrands were mixed or infused into Hysol 9396 aerospace
epoxy resin and the mechanical and electrical properties of the nickel-
containing epoxy resin investigated. The influence of nickel nanostrand
loading level, mode of their incorporation into the epoxy resin and
magnetic orientation on mechanical and electrical properties of the
composite were examined (Burghardt et al, 2006).
New panel material for use in bulkhead and structural flooring in aircraft,
using glass reinforced polymer faced sheets with a foam core and a Kevlar

ballistic resistant backing has been described. Panels infiltrated with a fire
retardant resin, were evaluated for their fire resistance, toxicity in fires,
mechanical strength and ballistic resistance according to National Institute
of Justice and ASTM standards (Cohen et al, 2005).
In orbit, satellites are exposed to significant thermal variations. To ensure
reliable operation of their on-board systems and equipment, a thermal
control of the spacecraft is necessary using cold, neutral or warm
coatings. The Materials and Coatings Laboratory of the Thermal Control
Services at CNES (Toulouse, France) has elaborated a cold coating version
by using a polysiloxane deposit on a metal substrate (such as polished
aluminium or vacuum deposited silver). In geostationary orbit,
polysiloxane, which has a high electrical resistivity, can accumulate
implanted charges that can give rise to electrostatic discharges and
damage the neighbouring electronic systems. To prevent any electrostatic
discharge problems in geostationary orbit, the resistivity of coatings
should be reduced without altering their thermo-optical properties, in
particular the low solar absorptivity and the high emissivity for cold
coatings. Several methods have been studied, such as the incorporation of
carbon nanotubes (CNT) and indium tin oxide (ITO) nanoparticles in the
polysiloxane matrix, with the objective of attaining a high transparency, a
high emissive, and an antistatic resin (Hidden et al, 2006).
The effects of processing parameters (compression moulding) on the
mechanical properties of carbon/polyetherketoneketone (PEKK)
thermoplastic composite laminates have also been studied. SEM was used
to observe the different microstructures arising from various processing
conditions. Optimum properties for the laminates have been established.
The range of parameters can serve as a guide to consolidate carbon/PEKK
laminates for high performance aerospace applications (Salek et al, 2005).
Conductive multifunctional polymer nanocomposite “NanoSphalt” is a
carbon nanofibre and fibreglass composite material
(www.ohionanosummit.net). The nanofibres bring an entirely new
property to fibreglass and other polymer composites – the ability to
conduct electricity – which opens the door for new applications for
lightweight but strong materials that are inherently not conductive (a
deflective “skin” could be applied to aircraft to prevent damage from a
lightning strike). The material was demonstrated at the Society for the
Advancement of Material and Process Engineering’s annual conference in
May, 2004, when researches lit a 75-watt bulb by running current through
the model bridge. Other potential applications are: electrically conductive
adhesives, energy harvesting, structural components with improved
electrical / thermal conductivity (such as aircraft engines that can burn
hotter and thus more efficiently).
Fabrication, processing, chemical and physical treatment of various forms
of carbon may have direct-end uses or may be further continued in order
to produce polymer nanocomposites for: low-wear resistance aircraft
brakes, protective coatings for satellites, superior insulating materials
capable of heat-storage and transfer, novel batteries etc. Researchers
working for aircraft industry try to find a way to replace copper wiring with

polymer wiring made with electrically conductive carbon nanofibres.
According to information from a wiring company, a Boeing 747 has
approximately 225 km of wire weighing approximately 1600 kg.
Theoretically, replacing that wire with conductive polymer will bring the
wiring weight alone down to well below approximately 454 kg, which will
positively impact the range and fuel efficiency of the aircraft.
Scientists from University of Dayton Research Institute (OH, USA) and Air
Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) have developed plastic that after being
deformed, can spring back into shape when heated. Mixing carbon
nanotubes with polymers creates “shape-memory” polymers that respond
to heat, electricity and infrared light (published in the February 2004 issue
of Nature Materials). It is believed that shape-memory polymers will be
used in practical applications within 5 years, e.g. in large structures that
need to be packed for launch and unfurled later. high-performance PNCs resins

Many potential aircraft applications depend on successful incorporation of

the nanoelements in thermoset resins. NanoSperse in Akron (OH, USA) is
now in full production of nanomaterial-reinforced polymers that are
lighter, stronger and more durable than other composite polymers – as
well as being thermally and electrically conductive.
Henkel KGaA of Germany has commercialised a range of low-viscosity,
one-part benzoxazine resins for use in the manufacture of large fibre-
reinforced plastic parts for aerospace applications. The resins are stable at
ambient temperature, have a long pot-life, and are easy to process (High
Performance Plastics, June 2006, 4).
In the same place, BASF AG of Germany reported a variant of its
"Basotect" heat-insulating and sound-absorbing melamine resin foam -
"Basotect TG" - which is 30% lighter than standard Basotect, making it
particularly suitable for the construction of parts for aircraft interiors (High
Performance Plastics, June 2006, 3). It can be additionally shaped by heat
(High Performance Plastics, May 2006, 1).
3M AF3070 FST" is a new halogen-free, low-density adhesive film from
3M, intended to assist aircraft interior manufacturers in cutting their
production times, and also in meeting increasingly strict fire, smoke, and
toxicity regulations (EUREKA, 2006). New silicone film adhesive, which
combines low outgases properties required for space applications with
consistent bond thickness, has been reported (Riegler et al, 2006). The
new film adhesive is comparable to a low outgas liquid adhesive and is
considered suitable for various applications common to satellite
The feasibility of developing a sprayable Chromium-Free Permanent
Primer (CFPP) coating system, which consists of a commercial chromium-
free, functional conversion coat, an abrasion-resistant PU elastomer
permanent primer layer containing a chromium-free corrosion inhibitor,

which forms chemical bonds with the conversion coat and a conventional
aircraft topcoat, has been demonstrated. This CFPP coating system
exhibits higher abrasion resistance against plastic media blasting than the
topcoat. It permits selective stripping of the topcoat without removal of
the primer or conversion coating. The topcoat may be selectively stripped
off when required and a fresh topcoat reapplied, making the aircraft ready
to fly again (Kovar et al, 2006).
Attempts were made to modify polybenzimidazole (PBI) by high-energy
radiation and low-pressure plasma treatment to permit the preparation of
composites with the same polymer. The PBI composites were prepared by
using an ultra-high-temperature-resistant epoxy adhesive to join the two
polymer sheets. The adhesive had a service temperature range of -260 to
+370 ºC and was highly resistant to acids, alkalis, solvents, corrosives,
radiation, and fire. Before preparing the composite, the surface of the PBI
was ultrasonically cleaned in acetone and modified by high-energy
radiation for 6 hrs in the pool of a nuclear reactor that produced a mixed
field of thermal and epithermal neutrons, energetic electrons, and
protons, and gamma-rays at a dose rate of 37 kGy/h. Alternatively, the
polymer was subjected to low-pressure plasma treatment with a 13.56-
MHz radio-frequency glow discharge for 120 s at 100 W power with
nitrogen as the process gas. A considerable increase in the joint strength
was observed when the polymer surface was modified by either process. A
further significant increase in joint strength occurred when the polymer
surface was initially modified by exposure to low-pressure plasma followed
by exposure to high-energy radiation. To simulate conditions in space, the
joints were exposed to cryogenic (-196 °C) and high temperatures (+300
°C) for 100 hrs. Joints exposed to these conditions retained about 95 % of
their strength. Microscopic examination of fractured surfaces of the joints
showed that the surface-modified polymer essentially failed cohesively
within the adhesive (Bhowmik et al, 2006).
Vibra-Tite from ND Industries (Loctite Corp.) is a unique threadlocking and
sealing product. All threaded fasteners tend to loosen under vibration.
Vibra-Tite is a solvent solution of acrylic polymers that is brushed onto the
threads and dries within a few minutes. Because of its soft, pliable nature,
it seems likely that Vibra-Tite is able to cold-flow to fill all the void spaces
in a threaded assembly, and then be hard enough and have enough
friction to prevent the slide slippage of the threads that causes loosening.
Vibra-Tite does not adhere strongly to the fasteners, allowing adjustment
of fasteners and reuse after disassembly. Vibra-Tite has been used on
assembly screws on the treadmill on the International Space Station and
other applications (Dunn, 2006).

Chapter 3: Review of state of the art of
technology and future trends in Aeronautics

The global passenger traffic is expected to increase steadily over the next
20 years by an average growth rate of about 5%. Main reasons are GDP
growth, increased globalisation, and population growth (see chapter 6). To
satisfy these expectations aircraft companies are looking for new

Main drivers are

• increased safety
• reduced emissions
• reduced noise
• increased capacity
• increased range
• enhanced payload
• higher speed
• lower operating and maintenance costs
• better overall management of the aircraft and its use

Most important for reaching these aims is the development of a new

generation of lighter materials. The main objective is to reduce the weight
of the airframe. In addition, the materials should be corrosion resistant,
damage tolerant and repairable as often as necessary.

The main driving force towards lighter materials is the fact that transport
costs decrease by a factor of $300 per pound of reduced weight in
commercial aircraft transport. This value is 100 times as high as it is in
the automotive sector. Reduced weight leads to lower costs and better
ecological compatibility due to reduced fuel consumption.
On the other hand, the need for lighter materials is even stronger in space
applications, so that the development of new materials is mainly driven by
the space industry. (Plano, 2002)

The most important properties addressed by aerospace materials are

strength, stiffness, impact resistance, long lifetime, toughness, ductility
and lightness. This affects not only the main aircraft body and blades but
also polymer components used in the interior. In the aviation industry
engine improvements are also under investigation, but to a smaller extent
compared to space applications.
There is also a need for new sensors and miniaturised electronic
components, although these developments are mainly driven by other
application fields such as the automotive or information and
communication sector. The results obtained in these sectors can be
transferred easily to aircraft when the technologies are ready for industrial

Revolutionary new nanocomposites have the promise to be 100 times
stronger than steel at only 1/6 of the weight, making aircraft more
efficient and able to fly faster.
Current R&D is looking at improved macroscopic materials using
nanomaterial additives which show the same promising properties on the
macroscale as on the nanoscale. In futuristic scenarios aircraft could
weigh as little as half of a conventional aircraft manufactured with today's
materials. Such novel materials would be extremely flexible allowing the
wings to reshape instantly and remaining extremely resistant to damage
at the same time. In addition, these materials would have “self-healing”
functionality. The high strength-to-weight ratio of these nano-materials
could enable new vehicle designs that can withstand crashes and protect
the passengers against injury. (NASA, 2001)

Nanotechnology can contribute especially to reducing operating costs

through lightweight and strong structural materials with the resulting
weight and energy savings. In addition, functionality and reliability can be
enhanced by improved functional materials and sensors. Lightweight
structural materials are the main focus for applications of nanomaterials in
civil aviation. Application opportunities are much broader in astronautics.

These are the reasons why the aeronautics industry is actively researching
the exploitation possibilities of micro and nanotech. For example, the
Boeing Company has formed an alliance with Ford and Northwestern
University to conduct nanotechnology research on projects of mutual
interest and potential benefit to the companies' current and future
products. (Boeing, 2005)

Airbus is following its airframe philosophy which focuses on highest

performance, the ‘maintenance-free’ airframe and environmental
friendliness. Researchers at the Corporate Research Centre (CRC) in
Ottobrunn and Suresnes are working in projects to use nanotechnology for
this airframe philosophy. (EADS, 2007)

British Aerospace has also begun to build up a basic nanotechnology

capability. (Pritchard, 2004)

Although nanotechnology seems to be promising for the aeronautics

industry and breakthroughs are expected within the next few years, there
are no nanotechnology applications in current Airbus aircraft (Oger, 2006)
and this can also be assumed for Boeing aircraft.

The main reason for this is the need for mature and robust solutions in
aerospace applications. The aeronautics business remains extremely
conservative and risk averse, making it difficult for nanotech applications
to be integrated into new products. This is even more prominent for civil
aircraft makers. Carrying passengers puts extreme demands on the

qualification process of new technologies. The material has not only to
prove its supremacy, but also its durability, whereby the physical
properties are maintained under extreme conditions and on a long-term
basis. In addition, a production process suitable for an industrial scale and
a reasonable price/performance ratio is mandatory. (Oger, 2006;

Although the requirements of the aerospace sector are a driving force for
improvements in nanomaterials, the sector will stay a niche market for
nanotechnology applications because of the small numbers of aircraft and
the associated cost intensive development.

In the following sections, the aspects of nanotechnology applications in

the airframe, as coatings, for the engine, new sensors, and in the
electrical system are discussed in more detail.

Please note that, as described above, the following descriptions and

examples are possibilities, none have yet been realized in civil aviation.

3.1. Airframe and components

The drivers are for lighter, stronger and safer aircraft. According to a
study of Lockheed (cited in Bader & Stumpp, 2006) it is not sufficient to
reduce the density of a material. When reducing the weight of an element
by 10% it is necessary to reduce its density by 10%, but simultaneously
to enhance its strength by 35%, its stiffness by 50% and its damage
tolerance by 100%

Current aircraft are composed of different materials. Besides conventional

metals like steel the use of lighter metals such as titanium, magnesium
and aluminium has strongly increased in the past. Higher potential for
lighter structures have the use of fibre-metal composites like glare (a
laminate of aluminium and glass fibres) and fibre-reinforced polymers.
Recently, the increasing use of fibre-reinforced polymers in civil aircraft,
e.g. the Airbus A380, has lead to a competitive advantage for the
European aerospace industry. Mainly carbon fibres with diameters of a few
micrometres are used for reinforcing. Fibre-reinforced polymers have the
potential to reduce weight by up to 30% compared with aluminium parts
and 50% compared with steel structures. In current aircraft of around
20% by weight of reinforced polymers are used, in the Airbus A380 this
value will be enhanced to 25%, for the Airbus A400M fibre-reinforced
blades are planned also with an increase of the polymer amount to 30%.
Boeing’s concept for the new 787 Dreamliner includes an amount of more
than 50% polymers measured by weight and much more than 50% by

A further improvement can be expected by substituting micrometre fibres
in these composites by fibres in the nanometre range. Estimations are
made that aluminium, reinforced with carbon nanotubes, can lead to a
weight reduction of 60-70% compared with current fibre-reinforced

Advantages of nanomaterials are:

• ultra high strength to weight ratio
• improved hardness, wear resistance and resilience
• thermal shock, fatigue and creep resistance
• enhanced anti-microbial activity
• multi-functional materials can reduce weight by reducing the
number of components

Nanomaterials can enhance the properties of almost every material used

in aircraft building.

Fibre-reinforced polymers

• Carbon Nanotubes (CNT): Hollow tubes of one (SWCNT, single walled

carbon nanotubes) or more (MWCNT, multi walled carbon nanotubes)
layer(s) of graphite. The feasible reduction of the weight of aircraft
components using composite materials reinforced with carbon
nanotubes (CNT) can be as large as 60-70% compared to existing
carbon fibre reinforced polymers (Fig.3.1).

Figure 3.1. Nanotube-Reinforced Polymer (CNTFRP) and Nanotube-

Reinforced Aluminium (CNT/Al) Composites compared to an advanced
carbon fibre reinforced polymer (IM7 CFRP) composite (Boehm)

The major hurdles preventing a broader use of CNTs (not only in the
aerospace sector) are the 10,000-fold increase in price compared to
standard fibres and the lack of an appropriate industrial-scale production
method. Technical problems include a lack of methods to achieve spatial
alignment of CNTs, good adhesion to the polymer matrix and achieving a
high loading rate.

• The addition of nanoparticles (e.g. clay-like mineral montmorillonite) to
synthetic resin is being studied to improve material strength. (EADS,
• Carbon-fibre reinforced polymers have a greater potential as a
lightweight design than aluminium alloys, but suffer from delamination
under load. The use of SiO2 nanoparticles leads to an improvement of
64% in tensile modulus, 25% more strength and 90% more impact
resistance. (Bader, 2006)


• Properties of metals are governed by the Hall-Petch relationship – as

grain size decreases, strength increases. Nanocrystalline materials are
characterized by significant increases in yield strength, ultimate tensile
strength, and hardness. For example, the fatigue lifetime can be
increased by 200-300 % by using nanomaterials with a significant
reduction of grain size in comparison with conventional materials.

• Nanostructured metals, particularly aluminium and titanium alloys can

improve the mechanical properties and enhance corrosion resistance.

• Metals can be strengthened by ceramic fibres such as silicon carbide,

aluminium oxide or aluminium nitride. Advantages of these so-called
MMC (Metal matrix composites) are a high thermal stability, a low
density, high strength, high thermal conductivity, and a controllable
thermal expansion. MMC have the potential to substitute magnesium
and aluminium parts in the future.


• Nanophase ceramics show an enhanced ductility and strength, and a

reduced sinter temperature. These materials can be used as thermal
and oxidation protection for fibre-reinforced construction materials.


• Glare –a laminate made of aluminium and glass fibres – is as strong as

aluminium but lighter and corrosion-resistant. However, it is much
more expensive. The bonding between the metallic sheets and fibres
can be enhanced by nanoparticles. (Nanovic)


Applications where nanomaterials can contribute to aircraft construction
are mainly in the airframe structure but also in the interior to a minor

• The airframe is the main target for the use of nanomaterials, aiming at
a weight reduction and therefore decreased fuel consumption and
costs because of the strength of nanomaterials as described above.

• Another reason for using stronger materials is to enhance passenger

comfort. For example, the cabins of airliners are pressurized to avoid
the need for oxygen masks, but the onboard air is still much thinner
than on the ground — typically the cabin atmosphere is equivalent to
an altitude of 8,000ft. Keeping the cabin pressure at ground level, the
aircraft’ aluminium bodies would have to be much thicker, making
them prohibitively heavy. The new Boeing 787 will be built from a
stronger carbon fibre composite, so it can allow a higher onboard
pressure, equivalent to being outside at 6,000ft altitude. It is expected
that as a result passengers will be far less tired. As mentioned above,
nanomaterials could give rise to even stronger composite materials
than those made with traditional carbon fibres, and could allow
onboard pressure to be increased further. (Robbins, 2006)

• Substituting stronger material of the same weight can increase the

impact resistance of aircraft skin material.

• Visionary ideas include fault tolerant and self-healing materials. It

has been shown that nanoparticles dispersed throughout a material can
migrate to cracks, potentially giving rise to self-healing composites (if
sufficient migration occurs to seal cracks). For example experiments
have been undertaken with spherical particles of about five nanometres
underneath silicon oxide. With the right coating, the nanoparticles
automatically migrate toward cracks in the silicon oxide. The Max-
Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung is working on filled nanocapsules in
zinc coatings for self-healing on cut-edges. Although these examples
are not focused on aircraft applications, the results should be
transferable. (Physorg, 2006)

• With regards to structural materials, nanotechnologies might enable

further improvements or tailoring (e.g. gradients) of mechanical
properties well beyond more conservative chemical or metallurgical

• Aircraft safety and security is also being increased through the use of
new materials in the interior. One example is the development of bullet
proof materials for sensitive parts, e. g. the cockpit door. High strength
and lightweight composite laminates (incorporating carbon nanotubes
in a variety of resins) are being investigated for use in ballistic
protection and novel damping materials.

• An important aspect for the interior of an aircraft is the need for fire
retardant materials. The aim is to meet the stringent specifications
demanded of materials used in aircraft interiors more cheaply and
effectively than with the costly specialised polymers currently used. It
has been shown that the introduction of nanoparticle additives to 5 %
can lead to a huge reduction in fire risk. On the other hand
nanoparticles can also act as fire accelerant, so a detailed analysis of
nanoparticles used in aircraft is necessary. (FhG-IFAM, 2004)

• The Boeing 787 concept not only includes a higher cabin pressure but
special filters to maintain a higher air quality. Filtration systems are
on the market, which use nanoscale silver particles to eliminate
undesirable odours and kill airborne health threats. It has been shown
that such nanofilters kill 99.7% of influenza viruses. Up to 98% of
odours were eliminated and another nano-filter eliminated all noxious
volatile organic compounds. (AzoNano, 2004)

3.2. Coatings

The trend is to substitute metals by reinforced polymers, which can be

supported by nanomaterials. In addition to the use of nanomaterials for
improving material properties of structural materials, metals can also been
made more durable by applying nanostructured coatings. One example is
the development of coatings for landing gear as a replacement for
environmentally problematic chrome coatings. (Integran)

The main target for nanocoatings is the protection of metals against

corrosion, but other applications are also under discussion.

• For example, magnesium – which is one third lighter than aluminium

and 80% lighter than steel – has been used increasingly in the past,
but magnesium alloys are strongly susceptible to corrosion. The
application of durable anodic or conversion coatings typically provide
protection against such effects. Anodic coatings are tougher, harder
and have better wear properties than conversion coatings, but their
cost is too high for mass production. Chromate-based conversion
coatings are cheaper, but the hexavalent chromium involved is both
carcinogenic and a hazardous air pollutant, so that a viable alternative
is urgently needed. The EU-funded NANOMAG project aims to provide
an alternative by developing clean and environment-friendly
nanocomposite coatings based on silicon oxide thin films that will be
more economical while also offering superior resistance to corrosion
and abrasion. (NANOMAG, 2003; Plano, 2002)

Other anticorrosive materials used in aviation, are nanoscale boron
oxide (Shuihu, 2003) and nano-crystalline cobalt-phosphorous
coatings. (TPC, 2005)

• For repairing corrosion damage, carbon nanotube filled resins are under
development. (Nanovic)

• Additional coating applications are more durable paints allowing aircraft

to be repainted on a less regular basis, insulator coatings for heat and
chemicals, and bio-nanomaterial coatings to keep airplane surfaces
clean and free of micro-organisms.

• High performance nanocomposites of polymers, metals and ceramics,

can be used for tribological coatings of aircraft platforms operated at
higher temperatures. Nanocrystalline cobalt-phosphorous coatings are
also being developed to provide superior sliding wear resistance and a
lower friction coefficient.

• Specific surface properties could be designed in order to open new

functionalities, as for instance self-cleaning or self-healing properties.

• Each single de-icing procedure of an aircraft can cost of up to 10,000 €

(3sat, 2001). In principle it should be possible to remove ice from the
aircraft body by an electrical current flowing through a thin conductive
layer. This technique is currently under investigation for removal of dew
and ice from automotive headlights (Hella, 2006).

• Scratch-resistant nanocrystalline coatings are already available on the

automotive market. Research is underway for their use in aircraft

• Anti-bacterial coatings using nanoscale silver are available in the

clothing industry, refrigerators, and washing machines. Their use is now
being investigated for aircraft cabins.

• Hard compound nano ceramic films are being investigated for the
protection of propeller-blade surfaces.

• Nanocomposite polyurethane paints and fluorocarbon paints have been

patented for use in aircraft. These paints should show greater durability
than current paints.

• Nano paint (nano graphite, nano Teflon, nano talc powder) has also
been patented for reducing friction of ship and aircraft surfaces
(allowing faster speeds to be achieved). The advantages should be a
very high lubricating and self-lubricating performance. (Qinghai, 2002)

3.3. Engines

Engines are still fuelled by hydrocarbons. Fuel combustion has been

reduced in the past by aerodynamic improvements, by weight reduction
and by more fuel-efficient engines and systems. However, the cost of
aviation fuel is still a major part of airplane operating costs and further
improvements in the efficiency of aircraft engines are required.

Improvements in aircraft engine efficiency can be reached by materials

which allow higher operating temperatures, lower engine weights, higher
pressures and increased rotor operating stresses.

• The application of high temperature nanoscale materials to aircraft

engines may lead to an increase of the thrust-to-weight ratio of up to
50 percent and fuel savings of 25 percent for conventional engines.

• Nanomaterials are being applied as coatings on aircraft engine blades.

Research is ongoing to manipulate the properties of the coatings down
to the molecular level making them adhere more firmly to the surface of
the metal blade and allowing the engines to run hotter.

• Nano-phase ceramics are being tested for use as thermal barrier

coatings (TBC). Improved TBC protective coatings have wide application
in aircraft engines, aero-structures, turbine engines, and chemical
processing. The coating system consists of an outer layer that is
chemically resistant, deposited on an underlying strain-resistant layer
that can deform without cracking. Both layers are made of perovskite
oxide ceramic layers. If successful, higher fuel efficiency can be reached
due to longer lasting TBCs that do not peel off. (Navy, 2006)

• The enhanced creep, fatigue and sulphidation resistance of grain

boundary engineered components is expected to significantly increase
the time between engine overhaul/refurbishment.

Because of the high surface area, nanoparticles can act as very efficient
catalysts, even for liquid and solid aerospace engine fuels. Fuels used at
present can be improved by the addition of nano-sized energetic particles,
which allow a higher combustion temperature, faster energy release rates,
a shortened ignition delay, shortened burn times resulting in more
complete combustion, a greater flexibility in designing new energetic
fuel/propellants, replacing inert or low-energy gellants, and a rapid energy

• Aluminium nanoparticles are used with liquid jet and rocket fuel to
increase the propulsion energy.

• Iron oxide nanoparticles can act as a catalyst for solid propellants.

• Nano-sized energetic metals and boron particles possess desirable
combustion properties such as a high combustion temperature and fast
energy release rates. (Kuo, 2003)

A comprehensive understanding of the important characteristics of nano-

sized particles to reach a desirable performance and ease of processing is
still not available. There is still much to learn about the correlation
between physical and chemical properties and measured combustion

Aircraft turbine engines are very flexible in the kind of fuel that they can
burn (Valentine, 2006). Cleaner and alternative fuels may help in reducing
harmful emissions. Examples under discussion are hydrogen or cryogenic
fuels. Problems are a suitable industrial production technique of hydrogen
and suitable storage technologies. Nanomaterials are being widely
investigated for their ability to store hydrogen and other gases and liquids
because of their high surface-to-volume ratio.

A more revolutionary vision is the use of electrically powered propellers.

High-density energy-storage technologies are needed to make this a
reality. The vision is based on superconducting energy-storage systems.
Advances in nanotechnology could enable superconductive materials to
eventually be manufactured at a cost that could justify their application in
airliner propulsion. (Valentine, 2006)

3.4. Sensors

In addition to chemical and optical sensors, further sensors are needed in

aircraft for measurements of velocity, acceleration, position, temperature,
and flow properties.

• The conductivity of wires with diameter of a few nanometres is very

sensitive to small changes in electrochemical potential. Because of this,
they can be used as very sensitive sensors for different gases.
Nanosensors can be used for the early detection of fires in the cargo
compartment of aircraft. The sensors are based on nanoparticles of
metal oxides. Similar sensors can be used for the detection of biological
and chemical toxins.

• Gyroscopes are used to track an airplane’s position. Microscopic

structures are now being built into chips that perform the same function
at far less weight and space. It could be imagined that nanostructures
can lead to further reductions in weight and space. Nanocrystal films of
iron-germanium can work as magnetic sensitive material for Hall
elements for the measurement of angles and elongations.

• The enhanced use of composite materials leads to the need for a
structural health monitoring system, because traditional methods for
testing metallic structures, like eddy current testing, cannot be used for
insulating materials. For identifying damage within advanced composite
materials, a network of carbon nanotubes or other nanowires can be
used, which detects damages by a reduction of the network
conductivity. Airbus for example is exploring piezoelectric paint made of
a lead-zirconate-titanate nanopowder; however this is still at a
laboratory stage. This paint could work as a very precise sensor for
information about vibrations, defects or impacts on an aircraft surface.

• Advanced concepts using networks of interoperable micro and

nanotechnology sensors for accurate event detection and identification,
and for long term monitoring applications are discussed for future
aircraft/spacecraft health monitoring systems. In this context systems
for miniaturized power sources and wireless communication are also
required. (CANEUS, 2004)

3.5. Electrical/electronic components and hardware

Nanoelectronic systems are being developed for the Information and

Communication sector. The results can be used also for applications in
aircraft. Again, the aviation industry is not the main driver and
applications in astronautics are much more ambitious because of stronger
weight constrictions and a harder radiation environment.

• The main driver in the aviation sector is an improved comfort for

passengers. For entertainment systems, improved flat screens and
miniaturized and energy-saving data storage systems would be helpful.
For example, flat screens utilising carbon nanotubes have been
developed, which have lower energy consumption, a broader viewing
angle and a lighter display compared with LCD displays.

• Integrated nano-electronic systems will allow the opening of “the office

and home in the sky”.

• Weight savings could not only be reached by savings in the aircraft

frame but also by replacing heavy copper wires in aircraft by nanotube-
improved plastic wires.

• Nanotube-enhanced conductive plastics can be used for electrostatic

dissipation in electronic devices and electromagnetic-wave shielding.

• A research project, led by the Boeing Research and Technology Centre

in Madrid is aimed at exploring the use of fuel cell technology for future
aerospace applications and for providing auxiliary power - for things

such as air conditioning and lighting on its aircraft by 2015. The
application of fuel cells has the potential to save up to 1% of jet fuel,
which is a large value considering that one Boeing 777 uses about half a
million kilograms of fuel every year.

3.6. Others

• For hydraulic uses, better lubricants and safer nano-fluids are being

• For a reduction of process times of composites, new technologies are

making use of microwaves to decrease the time needed for curing.
Ceramic nanoparticles are included in fibre composites, with the aim of
increasing strength and surface quality.

• In the longer term, active noise control techniques may benefit from
new knowledge on micro and nanotechnologies and could allow aircraft
noise to be reduced further. (ACARE, 2004)

• The windows in the Boeing 787 will not have blinds, but are made from
electro chromic glass, which dims at the touch of a button.

• In the ceiling, the colour and brightness of hundreds of LEDs can be

adjusted to give a sense of daylight, or a starry night sky. The aim of
these lighting effects is to adjust the body clock to the time of day at
the destination. (Robbins, 2006). OLEDs also allow new lighting and
display devices for aircraft cabins. Further advantages are cost and
weight savings and the opening of new application fields. (Diehl, 2005)

3.7. Conclusion

To conclude, nanomaterials and nanoelectronics are being investigated for

uptake in aircraft on a large scale. Foreseen benefits include cost
reduction, reduced environmental burden and enhanced passenger
comfort. Uptake of nanomaterials and nanoelectronics in aircraft may be
slower than in other sectors, but there is clear interest from the industry.

Chapter 4 Review of state of the art of technology and
future trends in Spacecraft

4.1 Introduction
The space sector deals with all the technologies associated with travel
outside the earth atmosphere. Different types of spacecrafts exist to
achieve specific goals in space exploration. Spacecrafts are also developed
for both military and civilian applications. This section will cover civilian

The spacecrafts have been classified as:

A rocket is a vehicle that obtains the thrust from the

ejection of fast moving fluid of a rocket engine. Other
than military applications, rockets are usually used to
launch satellites or other payloads.

A shuttle is also a vehicle used to transport humans into

space. A shuttle can be used to transport humans from
the earth to an orbital space station or can be a manned
mission where astronauts have to live in the shuttle.

A space station is an artificial structure designed for

humans living in outer space. So far only low earth
orbit (LEO) stations are implemented, also known as
orbital stations.

A satellite is an unmanned spacecraft used for

several scientific applications such as earth
observation and planetary exploration. The satellite is
also used for commercial applications such as
communication and GPS.

Non-orbital spacecrafts called ‘probes’ are used for deep exploration of the

The importance of the space sector can be emphasised by the number of

spacecrafts launched. In the period from 1957 till 2005, 6376 spacecraft
have been launched at an average of 133 per year. There has been a
decrease in the number of spacecrafts launched in the recent years with

78 launched in 2005. Of the 6376 launches, 56.8% were military
spacecrafts and 43.2% were civilian. 245 manned missions have been
launched in this period. 1674 communication or weather satellites were
also launched1. The remaining spacecrafts launches have been exploration

The space sector has been a strategic field for all the industrial nations.
Space exploration is the oldest human dream and the present national
space programs are very ambitious (e.g. Mars manned flights, extra solar
system exploration2). As spaceflights become common, commercial
applications are expected to present colossal potential opportunity for
communication, GPS and space tourism companies.

The following factors are considered to be pushing new technology

development in space-
• The ambition of national space programs to enhance their space
knowledge such as that of NASA to push human frontiers to the
moon and beyond by longer exploration. This goal will require the
development of autonomous spacecraft and in the case of manned
mission consider technical developments to sustain life in space.
Energy generation and storage sub systems, life support, health
management knowledge have to be developed to meet the
challenges of harsh environment in space.
• The development of commercial space applications will be faced with
the problem of decreasing costs. As costs are considered
proportional to weight, research will be required on commercial
application based on decreasing both structure and payloads
weights by the use of lighter materials and integrated systems such
as Nano and Pico satellites.

Technological improvements can bring solutions to achieve those

objectives. But new technologies are also being developed to face
traditional space constraints –

• Facing high levels of radiation with suitable materials and

• Facing extreme temperatures and temperature variation (e.g.
between the extreme cold of Mars, Titan or Pluto exploration and
extreme heat of atmosphere re-entry)
• Facing mechanical constraints of launching by suitable engines and

As nanotechnologies cover all the scientific fields implicated in spacecraft

enhancements (materials, electronics, energy), studying them for

The spacecraft encyclopedia, http://www.sciencepresse.qc.ca/clafleur/spacecrafts-index.html
NASA strategic plan, http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/142303main_2006_NASA_Strategic_Plan_sm.pdf

spacecraft applications makes sense in order to understand tomorrow’s
spacecraft. Nanotechnology is the development at the atomic, molecular
or macromolecular levels, in the length scale of approximately 1 - 100
nanometre range, to provide a fundamental understanding of phenomena
and materials at the nanoscale and to create and use structures, devices
and systems that have novel properties and functions because of their
small and/or intermediate size3.

The objective of this chapter is to describe nanotechnologies state of the

art for spacecraft applications and to analyse future trends in the coming
years. As nanotechnologies are still an emerging field, their use is very
limited in space but after analysing space agencies research, publications
and reports it appears that several advanced researches are focused on
nanotechnologies for short-term applications (expected by 2008). As the
different technologies developed can find applications in various missions
(commercial / scientific) and on various spacecraft (lighter materials are
important for satellites as well as for rockets), the analysis of the use of
nanotechnologies in spacecraft field will be done by technology:

- The three first parts will describe innovation that could find applications
in all the spacecraft such as nanotechnologies for materials, electronics
and energy.
- The fourth part outlines manned flights and the potential applications of
nanotechnologies for on-board life support management.
- The fifth part describes satellites and science payloads and the potential
of nanotechnologies in making them more efficient.
- And final part is a review of the potential of nanotechnologies for
futuristic visions like the space elevator.

4.2 Materials

Most of the progress in nanotechnology has happened due to the

discovery of many novel nanostructured materials and the subsequent
characterisation of their electronic, electromechanical, electrochemical,
mechanical, chemical, optical and magnetic properties for a variety of

These new properties represent an important interest in spacecraft

applications because they address the design constraints in achieving the
space goals.
• New mechanical properties can bring solutions to mechanical
constraints of launching.
• New optical properties can increase radiation protection of space

NSF definition, http://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/nano/reports/omb_nifty50.jsp

• New thermal properties can solve the problem of extreme
temperature variation, not only for the structure but also for
components, because at that level the wall of temperature is a very
stringent factor.
• New electronic properties can allow building materials with
integrated sensors (e.g. to detect materials cracks) or materials for
electronic components. Several new sensors such as infrared
sensors, gas and pollutants sensors can also be created.
• Finally materials nano structured can allow the construction of
lighter structure and the development of nanocomposites.

Nanoscale engineered materials built with basic nanoelements such as

nanoparticles, nanotubes, or with nanotextured, nanoporous 3D specific
network can present interesting characteristics for spacecraft applications.
The nanomaterials with new properties may be used in spacecraft
(rockets, shuttle, satellites) and most of the applications described here
concern structural materials.

4.2.1. Nanoelements

The nanomaterials considered are in fact nanoelements such as

nanoparticles or nanotubes incorporated into different kind of materials
(polymer, composites, coating). That’s why a rapid description of the two
main elements found in nanomaterials for space applications seems

Nanoparticles were the first discovered nanoelement
and so their engineered processes are the most
controlled. They can be used in several devices (as
bulk or surface) for materials or electronics. They
bring new properties to existing materials e.g.
creation of specific optical properties with the addition
of TiO2 nanoparticles. According to the control of their
engineering, nanoparticles are already used in mass production materials
like in automotive industry. Indeed, the tire industry has been using SiO2
nanoparticles in order to improve mechanical and thermal properties for a
few years.

Due to their high mechanical strength and resistance against heat and
radiation, nanoparticle reinforced polymers, have potential applications in
various components in space as lightweight structural materials, housings
of solid-propellant rockets, as heat protection material, electrical isolations
or fire protection applications. The early applications are already emerging

in the space sector. In a SBIR project of NASA, nano-crystalline aluminium
alloys were developed for space applications by the company DWA
Aluminium Composites in co-operation with different US-American
aerospace companies. This development aims to facilitate formability of
materials through super plasticity generated by reducing the melting
points and sintering temperatures to 30% (VDI Technology centre, 2003).

Carbon nanotubes

A carbon nanotube is a sort of carbon nanofibre. Carbon nanofibres are

cylindrical nanostructures with graphene layers arranged as stacked
cones, cups or plates. Carbon nanofibres with graphene layers wrapped
into perfect cylinders are called carbon nanotubes.

The carbon nanotube is the emblematic element of nanotechnologies

because it is the most promising. Due to their unusual
properties (elasticity, stiffness: about 1 terapascal,
compared with about 10 gigapascal for conventional
carbon fibre and 1.2 gigapascal for high-carbon steel),
carbon nanotubes possess numerous application potentials
in space, among other things within the ranges of space
structures, thermal control devices, sensor technology,
electronics, gas storage and biomedicine. A substantial
part of the nanotechnology programme of the main space
agencies (NASA, Aerospace Corporation4, ESA) is based on
the development and application of carbon nanotubes based material
improvements. In particular there is a huge potential for mass savings in
space structures, which represents one of the main goal of futures

Another further advantage of carbon nanotubes based materials is the

possibility of creating monitored materials. According to the electrical
properties of carbon nanotubes, the changes of the mechanical properties
of the material can be indicated through changes of the electrical
resistance and so possible damages could in principle be easily detected
by simply monitoring the electric conductance of the material (VDI
Technology Centre, 2003).

Despite the exceptional value for spacecraft technology, the related

structural applications of multifunctional nanotubes are to be expected
rather in a medium term time horizon due to their high price and
problems with the scalability of production processes. Indeed nanotubes
and other structural materials discussed above are not yet being produced
in large enough quantities to be cost effective for bulk applications (the

Aerospace Corporation is an independent US research centre for United States Air Force
and the National Reconnaissance Office. It also has links with NASA, Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Air Force laboratories and California State

average price is about $500 per gram and the average quantity
production is about 100g per day).

The second problem is concerning the transfer of the molecular properties

to macroscopic materials are still unsolved, e.g. the dispersion of carbon
nanotubes but also of any other kind of nano charge (more specifically
when they are hydrophobic) in composite matrices or spinning of carbon
nanotubes to macroscopic fibres. Another problem with the production of
carbon nanotubes composites, e.g. reinforced polymers, is the alignment
and the adhesion of the carbon nanotubes in the matrix. Carbon
nanotubes tend naturally to agglomerate, so that the loading rate of
carbon nanotubes is limited to a little weight percentage and problems of
viscosity appear at high loading rate.

But carbon nanotubes have the potential to revolutionize several space

technologies. NASA has numerous research programmes based on an
optimization of the carbon nanotubes production process and also on the
functionalisation of those nanotubes to integrate them in components. A
partnership between NASA and Idaho Space Material (ISM) (NASA, 2006)
will allow NASA to benefit the high rate carbon nanotubes production (50g
per hour) to develop next generation metals, composites, polymers and
ceramics. Materials using nanoelements Polymers

A polymer is an assembly of large molecules consisting of repeating

structural units, or monomers, connected by covalent chemical bonds.
Nanoparticles can be introduced in polymer to improve their electrical,
thermal or mechanical properties. According to VDI, suitable nanoparticles
such as silicates (in particular montmorillonite clay), POSS (Polyhedral
Oligomeric SileSquioxanes) are under consideration. Epoxide, nylon,
polyphenole or polyimide can be used as polymer matrix. The properties
of composites that can be significantly improved are thermal and flame
resistance, moisture and chemical resistance, decrease permeability,
charge, dissipation and conductivity.
Nanoparticle reinforced polymers is being developed by NASA through the
SBIR program. NASA has conducted the initial qualification tests of
nanoparticles reinforced polymers for space application. Composites

Composite materials are being produced by mixing nanotubes, nanowires,

nanoparticles, fullerenes in polymer, carbon, ceramic, or metal matrices.
Such composite materials can provide significant enhancement in the

thermal conductivity, directional anisotropy, radiation absorption, and
structural reinforcement capabilities. Major reductions in the overall
system mass are possible with the use of nanostructured thermal
protection and radiation structure materials.

Nanoparticles and nanopowders as reinforcing composites:

Thermomechanical properties, fracture toughness, fracture toughness and

formability can be improved by using nanoscale ceramics. The use of
nanopowders of oxide nanopowders Si3N4, SiC, TiCN and non-oxide
nanopowders Al2O3, SiO2 can reduce the sintering temperature and the
consolidation time of ceramic material. Nanostructured ceramic
composites can provide thermal and oxidation protection for construction
material. High strength transparent bulk ceramics for applications as
external surfaces and skins for spacecrafts and window is also under
development. (VDI, 2003)

Ceramic fibres reinforced metals can replace magnesium and aluminium in

different structure. Material such as silicium carbide, aluminium oxide or
aluminium nitride can be potentially used in spacecrafts. As has been
reported, the strength of metal matrix composites could be increased up
to 25% through nanostructuring and beyond that, super plasticity and a
better resistance against material fatigue can be obtained in comparison
to conventional metal matrix composites (VDI, 2003). Different research
activities can be noticed in the frame of the SBIR programme of NASA,
CANEUS concept paper and Aerospace Corporation activities.

Further development of nanocomposites will be to make them tuneable,

adaptive, self-healing and stress smart sensing systems. These materials
will optimize considerably space travel by increasing functionalities in
spacecraft systems and vehicles while reducing mass, size and power

Carbon nanotubes / nanofibres in polymer:

Most of the research on composites is based on the incorporation of

carbon nanotubes into polymer matrix. NASA investigates carbon
nanotubes integration in polymer in its laboratory TIIMS5.

Research aims at purifying and functionalizing carbon nanotubes to enable

new nanotube polymeric and ceramic composites that have electrically
conductive, switchable molecular properties, including nanoshells
(spherical core of a particular compound surrounded by a shell with a
thickness of a few nanometres).

Texas Institute for Intelligent Bio-Nano Materials and Structures for Aerospace Vehicles:

Aerospace Corporation shows that cyanate ester trimers interact strongly
with the surface of the single walled carbon nanotubes. Experiments have
shown that when carbon nanotubes are fully dispersed in cyanate-ester
resin, at concentrations of only 0.5 percent by weight, the modulus of the
cured polycyanurate matrix is approximately doubled. This nanoreinforced
resin can improve the resin-dominated properties such as shear strength
of carbon fibre polycyanurate composites used in space hardware for stiff,
lightweight structures.
Carbon nanotubes thermal characteristics have also been tested to create
new polymer properties. Experiences show that the insertion of nanotubes
into the polymer matrices increases the thermal expansion coefficient of
the material by 40 to 60 percent above glass transition temperature. This
also enhances the thermal diffusion coefficient by about 30 percent
(CANEUS, 2002). These characteristics of the composite, as opposed to
the bare polymer matrices, are expected to be useful during the
processing steps above glass transition temperature. The mechanical
strength and stiffness characteristics of the polymer matrices are also
found to increase by about 30 to 50 percent on mixing of 5 to 10 percent
of nanotubes at room temperature. Enhancing thermal properties can be
useful to protect structure of space extreme temperatures.

Another research axis is the introduction of carbon nanofibre in carbon

fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP). Mechanical and electrical properties of the
CFRP are enhanced proving their efficiency in ultra lightweight load-
bearing structures for harsh environmental conditions. Carbon nanofibre
doped epoxy mixtures are used as a matrix material for the preparation of
unidirectional CFRP. The mechanical characterization of the doped CFRP
showed remarkable increase in the fracture energy of the laminates and
also higher elastic and storage modulus in comparison with the non-doped
CFRP. CANEUS is also investigating this field since 2004 with possible
applications in 2007 in the frame of the project “Nanofibre Composite
Materials for Load Bearing Structural applications”.

The use of carbon nanofibre as nano-sensors for the damage detection

within the matrix material of the CFRP is investigated. Its application is
non-destructive damage detection in CFRP during mechanical loading that
is a key parameter in space structure (Kostopoulos et al., 2005).
Investigations are also made in the frame of a CANEUS project to build
smart composites. A variety of micro-nanotechnologies-based sensors and
actuators are embedded within these composites, creating multi-
functional, “smart” materials. Numerous potential applications exist for
such multi-functional structures or failure monitoring. Coatings

Coatings are used in spacecraft as structure protector or to enhance some
properties of the material structure. Nanotechnologies allow the building
of a lot of new coatings like smart coatings or with attractive new
properties like hardwearing, thermal electrics isolating, optical properties.
Most of the research on coatings is currently focused on the enhancement
of electrical and thermal properties of existing structures.

Conductive nanostructures could be used as dopes within the plasma

sprayed white ceramic optical coatings. Nanostructures have the unique
property of being small enough not to significantly impact optical
properties in small concentrations (<1%). Thus, a percolate network of
conductive nanostructures such as carbon nanotubes or conductive oxide
nanowires can be incorporated into the coatings to improve conductivity.
Transparent films of carbon nanotubes can also be used as a conductive
coating over the ceramic coating to mitigate charging effects e.g. on the
heat shield (Kao, 2006).

Electrical conductivity of thermal blankets used on most spacecraft surface

is a key point of a rocket structure because it prevents the build-up of
electrostatic charges that could lead to potentially harmful discharges. The
conducting indium-tin-oxide coatings typically used on blankets can crack
and oxidize which reduces their conductivity and can create electrostatics
charges. That’s why a transparent polymer blend with sufficient bulk
conductivity and environmental stability to mitigate surface charging on
satellites was developed by Aerospace Corporation. The material
polyaniline or polyimide blend could eliminate hundreds of straps used to
ground the conductive front surface of the blankets to the spacecraft.
They now investigate the use of fluorinated polyaniline in the fluorinated
host material polyimide conducting to create polyaniline nanofibres in
order to improve optical transmittance.

The use of carbon nanotubes as coating can also enhance thermal

conductance of metal-metal contacts by increasing the number of contact
points, using a high density of nanometre-sized contacts. This task can be
accomplished by coating one of the interfaces with multiwalled carbon
nanotubes. When pressed against a solid material, many of the
multiwalled carbon nanotubes make contact to the material, and the
number of contact points is increased dramatically that generates thermal
conductance improvements over both metal-metal contact (Sample,

4.2.2 Materials conclusion

Nanoscale materials represent a major stake for spacecraft because of the

opportunity they bring to build new structures with specific thermal,
electrical, optical characteristics, stronger and cheaper structure. Major
space agencies are engaged in research concerning nanomaterials with
new properties and some of them can nearly find applications. The
following table summarizes the different nano applications for materials in
space under study:

Technology Characteristic Interest6 Perspective

Nanoparticles Improve thermal, flame, resistance; ++ Short term
reinforcing polymers decrease permeability, charge (in test)
Nanoparticles Improve thermo mechanical + Short term
reinforcing properties
Carbon nanotubes Improve thermo mechanical +++ Middle term
reinforcing properties; radiations resistant
Carbon nanotubes Improve thermo mechanical +++ Middle term
reinforcing coatings properties; allow creation of electric
properties like failure detector
Smart materials Integration of electronic component to ++ Long term
create new functions

Notice: research on carbon nanotubes integration seems the most promising but carbon
nanotubes manufacturing and integration into an existing structure is still not totally
controlled. This research will find applications in the longer term than nanoparticles

Finally, one of the key factors of futures applications of nanostructured

materials for spacecraft will be the elaboration of efficient characterisation
and modelling tools. Before any material can be specified for a space
application it must endure rigorous testing and analysis to determine
optimal processing conditions and ensure reliable performance and
security in the hostile space environment. This is all the more true with
nanoscale materials because of their small size and specific
characteristics. Secure modelling processes and rigorous tests ensure
crew security in the case of manned flights and decrease the financial
risks of a failure in space (Kao, 2006).

4.3. Electronics

Electronics is everywhere on a spacecraft. It controls all the vital systems

of the vehicle (orbit, attitude determination, communication between the

+: normal ; ++: strong interest ; +++ : very strong interest

different parts of the vehicle, energy transformation) and all the science
payloads. The electronics industrial sector is a very innovative sector with
a huge market potential and so the study of nanotechnologies
incorporation into electronics devices represents a real stake for its actors.
Indeed nanotechnologies promise enhancement of actual electronics
devices properties reducing their size.

Thus nanotechnologies applications for spacecraft electronics are

essentially spin off from ground electronics sector because they pursue
the same goals: decreasing price, increasing performances. And
nanotechnologies show promises to achieve these goals by the use
amongst others of carbon nanotubes. Nevertheless it is important to note
that nanotechnologies in spite of their prefix “nano” don’t represent a
huge potential for miniaturization. Big advances were made by the
implementation of MEMS in several sub-systems and even though NEMS
are in development they are not very relevant for the mass saving in big

The only specific constraints of spacecraft that can influence the

development of space specific nanotechnologies for electronics, is the
exposure to highs rates of radiation. For this specific aspect the best
technologic answer is carbon nanotubes that show natural high radiation
resistance properties.

Finally an important aspect of nanoelectronics for spacecraft as well as for

nanomaterials will be modelling and characterisation of electronics
devices. It will be useful to detect and anticipate failures due to space
harsh conditions. It is all the more important as electronics devices use
nanotechnologies because some characteristics they engender are not

4.3.1 Carbon nanotubes for transistors

Carbon nanotubes have potential to become the base of almost electronics

devices for spacecraft. Not only do they present exceptional conductive
characteristics but they also have a non-negligible advantage for space
use: their radiation resistance. A recent study of Prof. Kwanwoo Shin at
Sogang University showed that:
First, electronics device became more radiation tolerant when their
dimensions are reduced.
Secondly, proton irradiations have no effects on the electrical
properties of carbon nanotubes based field effect transistor.

Experiences were made with carbon nanotubes based field effect

transistors exposed to 10-35 MeV proton beams with a fluency of 4.1010 –
4.1012 cm-2 that is comparable to the space environment. None of the

devices that were fabricated for the experiment exhibited any significantly
altered electrical changes before and after proton irradiation (Hong et al.,

But electronics devices containing only carbon nanotubes are difficult to

build and cost effective. Moreover the quality control for the carbon
nanotubes fabrication and the large contact resistance are two major
issues that will remain problematic in the coming years. So the current
most advanced researches concern hybrid Si approaches in merging
carbon nanotubes based devices and structures with traditional silicon-
based technology.

4.3.2 Memories / Data storage

With the increasing number of on-board analysis systems coupled with the
lengthening of space flight, memories have to increase their storage
density decreasing mass memory. They also have to face space
constraints like others electronics components i.e. extremes
temperatures, radiations, mechanical constraints. “Nanotechnologies offer
potential in the development of new non volatile working memories for
computer systems, which will compete in the future with conventional
memory chips like DRAM.” (VDI, 2003)

Even expected dimensions of dynamic random-access memory (DRAM)

are to be 45 nm by the year 2010 and 18 nm by 2018 (Ives et al., 2005)
a range of concurrent technologies are in development “like Millipede
(micromechanical device with an array of nanoscale read/write/erase tips
based on scanning probe technology developed by IBM),” (VDI, 2003)
ferroelectric (FRAM memory based on the ferroelectricity of certain
crystals), biological memories, carbon nanotubes based memory and
magneto electronic (MRAM) storage technologies.

The three lasts represent the main potential applications for spacecraft.

Biological memory

Memories can be realized by making use of biological molecules (proteins,

Bacteriorhodopsin (bR) is one of the molecules
intensively examined for memory applications. At
present efforts are made on genetic mutations of
bR in order to stabilize individual configurations of
the protein for increasing the data stability.
Porphyrin is another molecule that can be used as
memory. Zettacore Company is currently

developing this technology.
Experiments were also made with data storage on diamonds with Fluorine
and Hydrogen atoms on its surface. This structure increases data quantity
stored by 107.


This magneto electronic storage technology presents several advantages

for space application such as low energy consumption,
inherent radiation resistance and suitability for high
temperature application. (VDI, 2003) The use of
spintronics in this field represents conception
advantages and potential size decreasing.


NRAM is carbon nanotubes based memory, high-

density non-volatile Random Access Memory.
NRAM has the potential to serve as universal
memory replacing all existing forms of memory,
such as DRAM, SRAM and flash memory. Nantero is
developing this technology and announce in 2006
the routine production of carbon nanotubes for their memory
applications7. Even if applications are expected in a middle-term carbon
nanotubes based memory represent a huge potential of spacecraft
applications because of their space radiations resistance.

4.3.3 Nanocharacterisation

Impacts of defects on electronics devices geometries are always critical

and the effect at the nanoscale is amplified and more difficult to detect
with respect to manufacturability and reliability of these devices. New and
innovative uses of advanced analytical techniques are needed that allow
imaging, visualization, and detailed examination of every part of the
features of interest at the nanoscale. That’s why The Aerospace
Corporation created an innovative tool for failure analysis at the
nanoscale. This NANO-3DI technique is a special FIB milling technique that
can remove material in slices less than 2 nm thick using a standard ion
beam roughly 30 nm in diameter. This innovation involves using the
change of SEM image contrast and brightness caused by removal of
surface carbonaceous deposit as an end point. Thus, the process of cutting
and imaging can be repeated at nanoscale increments until the entire

See: http://www.nantero.com/pdf/Press_Release_11_06%20.pdf

structure containing the features of interest is physically deconstructed. It
can then be digitally reconstructed from the images taken after each cut
(Ives et al., 2005).

Figure 4.1 : NANO-3D, Aerospace Corporation


A complementary approach is to prevent geometrical defects by

performing simulation software.

4.3.4 Electronics conclusion

Nanotechnologies in electronics components are not yet available for

space missions even if they promise several applications especially in
facing space radiation. As electronics is not the most current strategic
aspect of space researches evolutions in nanotechnologies applications for
spacecraft will mainly depend of progress made in the terrestrial
electronics sector. The following table summarize the different nano
applications for electronics in space under study:

Technology Characteristic Interest Perspective

Carbon nanotubes for Space harsh conditions resistance +++ Middle term
transistors (radiations)
Carbon nanotubes Space harsh conditions resistance ++ Middle term
based memory (radiations), data storage increase
MRAM Space harsh conditions resistance ++ Middle term
(radiations), data storage increase
Biological memory Space harsh conditions resistance + Long term
(radiations), data storage increase

Space research is more focused on applied electronics like various sensors

that are developed in their own parts. Finally modelling and
characterisation is the most active sector of space research in electronics
because it represents a relevant stake to pursue the “zero failure”
objective of main space missions.

4.4. Energy generation and storage

Spacecraft electrical power subsystem (EPS) typically provides four basic

functions: power source, energy storage, power distribution and power
regulation and control. The energy problematic is common to all the
spacecraft. Rockets and shuttle need huge propulsion energy for launching
using propellants; and satellites need adapted propulsion systems smaller
with high energy conversion rate. All spacecraft also need efficient energy
storage and conversion systems during flights for their orbiting and their
other on board subsystems.

This subsystem is a key component for current space stakes because

smaller energetic systems, with better outputs can allow spacecraft to be
more autonomous and so to stay in space for farther missions. Autonomy
improvement is also very important in the case of emergencies situations
and can be determinant to save a mission. Weight and size decrease with
efficiency increase to avoid self heating of electrical power subsystem also
make cheaper vehicles.

Nanotechnologies applications in the range of electrical power and energy

storage can improve batteries and fuel cells as well as photosensitive
materials for high-efficient solar cells. Nanotechnologies can also be used
to optimize energy generation boosting current propellants or for electric
propulsion where they can be used as cold cathode to emit electron to
neutralize flux of charged particles.

4.4.1. Propellants

Propellants are typically a power source essential for rockets or shuttles.

As propulsion subsystem is an energy liberation component, its
characteristics are the need of a huge energy generation in a very short
time that implies optimized energy storage and a high discharge rate.
Nanotechnologies can be used to enhance current propellants essentially
with the introduction of nanoparticles.

Propellants usually used for space launching are ammonium per chlorate
(NH4ClO4). The American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics as well
as SNPE8 are currently exploring ways to improve those using
nanoparticles of Aluminium. The most common formulation is aluminium
nanoparticles mixed with molybdenum trioxide (MoO3) or bismuth trioxide
(Bi2O3). The aluminium particles sizes range between 60 and 120 nm and
experimentally measured combustion wave speeds varied between 420
and 460 m/s. Combustion wave speeds in excess of 1km/s with an under

SNPE is a chemical group specialised in explosives, energetic materials.

pressure of several hundreds atmosphere. Results indicate that burn rate
increased with decreasing particle size.

Recent advances in particle synthesis technology have allowed aluminium

nanoparticles to be produced in commercial quantities. Thus, the issues of
volume production, economics and quality control have reached a level of
maturation such that the companies are now offering standard product. At
the same time significant progress has been made toward understanding
of the unique combustion processes of nanoaluminium and its various
formulations such as Metastable Intermolecular Composites (MIC also
called superthermite or nanothermite; it refers to an important subset of
Others research is turned to ion thrusters like Boron Argon or Xenon. But
they are still expensive and versatile which limit their use.

Aluminium powder has been used as an additive to propellant and

explosives for decades; that is why nanoparticles of aluminium appears to
be a promising alternative to traditional aluminium powder. It is more and
more envisaged for mars return mission to use carbon dioxide (most
abundant component in Mars atmosphere) as an oxidizer for metal
nanoparticles (Al).

4.4.2. Solar cells

Solar cells appear to be one of the most promising energy production

systems. Technology is quite well known but progress has to be made in
the range of energy conversion and durability of the collectors under
space conditions (radiation, heat and corrosion resistance). The use of
nanomaterials is expected to significantly increase the efficiency of solar
cells. Anti-reflective or self-cleaning coatings and collectors can also
improve the efficiency of converting solar energy to electric power. (VDI,
2003) Researchers from Georgia Tech are working on ways to mimicking
lotus self-cleaning coatings. With NASA they are developing a way to use
carbon nanotubes bundles to create the surface bumps needed to prevent
dust accumulation on the surface of photovoltaic cells that can decrease
the energy conversion rate (Toon, 2006).

At present the most efficient solar cells for space applications are based
on III/V-semiconductors such as GaAs and InP and have a conversion
efficiency that can reach 40% with triple junction cells. Conversion
efficiencies of over 50% may be possible with such compound
semiconductor solar cells (Aroutiounian et al., 2001). The conversion
efficiency of solar cells may be improved by using semiconductor quantum
dots. (VDI, 2003)

The principle is to incorporate a layer (or layers of different sizes) of

quantum dots that absorb in a region outside that of the usual

photovoltaic device. Theoretically studies have predicted a two-fold
improvement in efficiency over conventional device structures (Luque and
Martí, 1997). This method of device improvement relies upon the physics
of the quantum mechanical "particle in a box". Each nanocrystalline dot
behaves as a potential well with energy levels that are quantized and
inversely related to the size of the well. By modifying the size of the
particle, the absorption energy of the dot can be tuned to a region where
it will be complementary to the existing cell properties (NASA, 2002).
Although the quantum mechanical dots contribute to cell output by
providing an intermediate band, they do not require current matching. In
this respect, quantum mechanical dot devices represent an alternative to
multi-junction devices. As the quantum dots synthesis process is still not
well controlled, the problems of quantum dots integration in solar cells are
both the synthesis of quantum dots, their integration in an exogenous
structure and the potential toxicity they represent during their

Figure 4.2 : Intermediate-band gap solar cell, NASA Glenn research centre

Organic solar cells can be potentially used in spacecrafts. The advantage

of organic solar cells is the low cost of manufacturing as compared to
conventional solar cells. The main disadvantage at this stage is the low
efficiency of the device. Research on different types of organic solar cells
including the Graetzel cell continues. (VDI, 2003)

The only constraint of solar cell is the necessity of sun exposure to

generate energy. It implies increasing research in efficient capacitors to
store energy that can be released during a night phase. Capacitors like
“nanocaps” could be realized by metallic nano-electrodes with ultra thin
pseudo capacity or nanoporous carbon aerogels.

4.4.3. Fuel cells

“Fuel cells represent an efficient method for chemical energy conversion

and possess substantial application potential in space and moreover re-
usable spacecraft due to their clean operation and their compactness.”
(VDI, 2003) Nanotechnologies offer different possibilities to increase the
conversion efficiencies of fuel cells, in particular within the ranges of

catalysts, membranes and hydrogen storage, which in many cases is
critical for the employment of fuel cell technology in space.

Direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC) are one platform for generating energy.
DMFC used a catalyst to convert methanol fuel to hydrogen. The
poisoning of the catalyst by carbon monoxide is one of the main obstacles.
This can be improved by the use of metallic nanoparticles or ceramic
nanopowders. Fuel storage is also considered to be a problem in
implementing fuel cells (VDI, 2003).

The other type of fuel cell is hydrogen fuel cells. They provide higher
power density and double conversion efficiency compared to DMFC. The
critical problem with hydrogen fuel cells is hydrogen storage that prevents
the use of hydrogen fuel cells power sources. Different nanomaterials
were tested for hydrogen storage due to their increased active surface
area but their energy storage is still inferior to that of carbon nanotubes.
Indeed due to their hollow tubular nature, carbon nanotubes have a
relatively good hydrogen retention rate (4-5% under very low
temperature < 100°K) that is why several space agencies (American
Institute of Aeronautics and Aerospace, NASA) investigated the use of
carbon nanotubes to enhance current hydrogen storage system.

Carbon nanotubes can also be used as anode materials, solid polymer

electrolyte additive, active cathode material, bipolar plate interconnect in
both hydrogen and direct methanol fuel cells. The use of carbon
nanotubes allows facing the high price of platinum and also the problem of
radiation degradation. But several problems appear with the creation of
this kind of materials like with securing bulk amounts of small-diameter
nanotubes. Moreover carbon nanotubes didn’t appear as cost relevant as
it promised.

That’s why various alternatives are studied in laboratories. Another hollow

tubular structure, BCN (Boron Carbon Nitride nanotubes) shows promise
because of its possibility for tuning nanostructures electrical properties by
B/N concentration variation. But tube diameter and helicity are currently
difficult to control and so manufacturing problems still exist. Scientists
from NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) and Turkey’s
Bilkent University predict that a well-known, inexpensive molecule:
Ethylene could become the future of H2 storage. Their calculations show
that titanium atoms attached to an ethylene molecule can drastically
increase H2 storage to reach 14 percent of the weight of the titanium-
ethylene complex (Durgun et al., 2006). As the U.S. Department of
Energy specified that about 7-10 percent by weight storage should be
sufficient for commercial viability for both ground and space
transportation applications titanium ethylene can be an easy inexpensive
solution for H2 storage.

4.4.4. Batteries

Space power systems used high performance batteries such as lithium ion
or nickel metal hydride accumulators for powering devices. Nickel
hydrogen or nickel metal hydride batteries are essentially used in small
sized elements like for extra vehicular activity (EVA) suit devices and
experiments. That is why powerful and miniaturized batteries are needed
to improve portative tools autonomy. Ultracaps (kind of battery where
electric energy is directly stored as positive or negative charge without
any reaction on the electrode surfaces) with mechanical storage with
kinetic wheel are also developed for pulsed and power driven applications
and are planned for Space or Lunar station. The lifetime and efficiency of
charging and discharging cycles in these batteries is critically dependent
on storage and/or intercalation properties of the anode material.
Nanostructured materials offer improvements power density and durability
by controlling the charge diffusion and the oxidation state on a nanoscale
level (Khullar et al., 2004 cited in VDI, 2003).

Carbon nanotubes and fullerenes therefore provide an alternative to

current anode fabrication technology with graphitic carbon. Cathode
material can be built with carbon aerogels, carbon nanotubes, vanadium
oxide or LiCoO2-particles and anode with Sn/Sb oxides. Carbon nanotube
anodic layers around metal cathodes, such as Cu, are currently
investigated as well as Li and K intercalation in single-wall carbon
nanotube bundles and/or multiwall nanotubes. Other experiments report
increasing energy density with MnO2 or poly (o-anisidine) (POAS), a
polyaniline derivative, with nanomaterials TiO2 as cathode.

A significant improvement in both the current Ni/H and Li/C battery

technologies with respect to the current storing capacity and discharging
efficiency is expected. In lithium ion batteries, nanoparticles of cobalt
nickel and ferric oxides in the electrode material (Poizot et al., 2000) can
increase reversible charge capacity by 600%. The increasing
miniaturization of electronic components requires flexible batteries that
can be integrated into circuits. Thin film batteries (in particular Li ion
batteries), whose dimensions and power density can be adapted to the
respective chip components, offer numerous advantages for space
applications. (VDI, 2003)

4.4.5 Energy conclusion

Various types of energy generation and storage already exist.

Nanotechnologies have the potential to improve their achievements,
reducing their size and so their costs. Those applications are explored for
both ground and space sectors but space research is more focused on

those topics because energy is a key point for future spacecraft according
to the increasing need of autonomy.
The following table summarize the different nano applications for energy
in space under study:

Technology Characteristic Interest Perspective

Nanoparticles into Improve their efficiency, ++ Short term
propellants decrease volume needed
Quantum Dots reinforcing Improve energy conversion rate +++ Middle term
solar cells
Nanoparticles for fuel cells Improve fuel cells efficiency ++ Short term
Nanotubes for H2 storage Improve H2 storage rate and in +++ Middle term
(essentially Carbon the case of carbon nanotubes is
nanotubes) for fuel cells radiations resistant
Nanoelement for battery Improve existing battery + Short-Middle
efficiency term*

*Notice: It depends of the nanoelement used, carbon nanotubes integration is more a

middle term vision because of the difficulties for its manufacturing.

4.5. Life support

Life support is becoming a key research axis in space sciences. With the
development of longer manned mission and space tourism, monitoring the
life on the International Space Station or in shuttles is a real challenge.
There are numerous applications of nanotechnology within life support.
The important life support tasks have been summarised by VDI as oxygen
supply, pressure monitoring, ventilation, heat absorption and rejection,
waste water treatment, monitoring of water quality, CO2 removal,
hygiene, air cleaning and filtration, control of air quality and humidity,
health monitoring, filtering, avoiding moistures, decontaminating.
According to NASA, nanotechnologies can find potential application in gas
storage, wastewater treatment and sensors. (VDI, 2003)

4.5.1. Global life support

As long travel mission for human far exploration are seriously engaged,
enhancing on board life management become a necessity.
Nanotechnologies can bring technological solutions to astronauts’ daily

Gas sensors: The electronic nose based on gas sensors is used for
monitoring air quality and to detect fire warning. Nanotechnology is
expected to improve the selectivity of these gas sensors. Various types of
metal oxide and ceramic nanopowders can be used to improve the
performance of electrochemical sensors. (VDI, 2003)

NASA researches are focused on the topic of miniaturized sensors.
Researchers from NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory developed a
nanocarpet. This unique structure is a carpet of self assembling carbon
nanotubes that can be used for trapping microscopic particles or micro
organisms (e.g. inorganic particles, pollen, bacteria, spores). Its function
is first trapping microscopic particles for scientific analysis (Noca et al.,

But another function of the nanocarpet can be cleansing. University of

Pittsburgh researchers enhance nanocarpet to create one that not only
traps particles but also kills bacteria and others pathogens. Unlike other
nanotubes structures, these tubes display sensitivity to different agents by
changing colour and can be trained to kill bacteria, such as E. coli, with
just a jab to its cell membrane. Indeed a particular nanocarpet combines a
quaternary ammonium salt group, known for its ability to disrupt cell
membranes and cause cell death, with a hydrocarbon diacetylene, which
can change colours when appropriately formulated. The resulting molecule
would have the desired properties of both biosensor and biocide (Russell
et al., 2004).

Nanomix, a company devoted to the build of

nanosensors, has recently demonstrated
efficiency and selectivity of electronics noses
base on carbon nanotubes in the frame of a
SBIR phase II program (Star et al., 2006).
They integrate multiple sensor elements
consisting of isolated networks of single
walled carbon nanotubes decorated with
metal nanoparticles (for chemical selectivity).
Efficiency was proved for H2, CH4, CO and
Figure 4.3 : Nanomix sensor

Water cleaning: Pollutants and germs can be effectively removed from

water using Nano-membranes. The advantage of Nano-membrane is
reduced pore blockage as compared to conventional membranes. Argonide
is developing nano-porous ceramic filter membranes for the sterilization of
treated water in a NASA SBIR project. (VDI, 2003)

4.5.2. Medical systems

With the development of deep space living flights, enhancing medical

system is becoming a key point of longer manned mission. As critical risks
for astronauts, the following should be mentioned among other things:

bone, muscle, performance loss, heart and blood circulation problems,
distortion of the sense of balance, of the immune system, radiation
damages, insufficient methods for on-board medical therapy and
diagnostics (Stilwell, 2001).

Another key point is the miniaturization of medical devices in order to

adapt them to space transport. Substantial progress was made in this field
by the conception of MEMS based medical devices. Nanotechnologies will
not decrease significantly their size but can bring new functionalities that
can gather various functions in a same device like with lab-on-a-chip
systems. Numerous research programs of NASA focus on life sciences in
co-operation with other federal institutions (e.g. NIH) or industrial
partners. (VDI, 2003) They aim to apply nanotechnologies to achieving
space medical systems. The main objectives include minimal invasive,
efficient and mobile detection systems, methods of early diagnosis in
particular of cancer, bio molecular imaging, miniaturized diagnostics and
autonomous therapy. Applications of nanotechnologies can be identified

- Miniaturized analytical devices for medical diagnostics like lab-on-a-

chip-systems that allow complex analysis sequences by individual
controllable micro valves and channels. UCLA has developed in
partnership with NASA a lab-on-a-chip for blood testing that can allow
direct on board tests (Amudson, 2006).

To produce that kind of device, the most promising method is the

Fountain Pen Nanolithography. A CANEUS project is currently working on
the future of this technique integrating micro fluidics with nano-
fabrication, thus combining both top-down and bottom-up paradigms. This
technique seems to be the most promising method of large scale
nanoelectronics production that will be necessary for its routine use in
manned mission.

- Nanoparticles use for the detection of molecules (proteins, DNA) like

gold nanoparticles, semiconductor nano-crystals (quantum dots) or also
magnetic nanoparticles.

- Oligonucleotide biochips (e.g. for gene analysis) that allows

simultaneous detection of different analytes, high speed analyses, as well
as small and compact test kits. In this field NASA is developing “Ultra
sensitive Label-Free Electronic Biochips Based on Carbon
Nanotube Nanoelectrode Arrays” that allow fast detection
of gene mutation which is the major causes for the
development of cancer and genetic diseases and also the
main risk of radiation exposure. This biochip is build on a
basis of multi walled carbon nanotubes array used to
collect electrochemical signals associated with the target
bio molecules, which are specifically bonded to the

molecular probes covalently attached to the end of the multi walled
carbon nanotubes. The probe molecules could be designed as specific
biomarkers such as nucleic acids or proteins (NASA, 2006).

Figure 4.4 : NASA biochip -


Drug delivery realized in principle from nanoscale cage molecules (e.g.

liposomes, fullerenes or other cage molecules such as dendrimers) or by
coupling with nanoparticles. The most advanced devices are miniaturized
testers for bio molecules and diagnostics. Applications for nanoparticles or
drug delivery seem to be expected in a longer term like for ground

With the help of nanotechnological therapy procedures a distinct progress

in the autonomous self-diagnostics and medication of astronauts is
expected in the future that is an important prerequisite for the realization
of long manned space missions outside of the earth orbit. During a
manned Mars mission, which is considered as a long term objective both
for NASA and ESA, there would be no possibility of external medical
supply of the astronauts for a period of up to three years, apart from
capabilities of telemedicine which will be developed until then.

A CANEUS project is also under development on this topic: “Astronaut

health monitoring”. This 3 years project goal is building a new generation
of miniaturized biomedical devices for astronauts for 2009.
The sensor-on-a-chip for human health monitoring developed in the frame
of this project consists of fully integrated microelectronics, micro fluidics
and bio functionalized sensors on a single chip format using Polypyrrole
bio functionalized electrodes. Polypyrrole is a selective conducting polymer
adapted to detect glucose, cholesterol and a host of other blood molecules
as well as volatile liquids and gases for environmental sensing.

NASA is also preparing in-vivo test for a nanosensor to monitor space

radiation exposure (Flinn, 2005). It is a molecule size sensor, built using
dendrimers, which could be placed inside the cells of astronauts to warn of
health impacts from space radiation. Researchers group set out to develop
biosensors for real-time monitoring of radiation-induced biologic effects in
space. They sought to develop cellular biosensors based on dendrite
polymers, using nanoscale polymer structures less than 20 nm in diameter
as the basis for the biosensors. To make use of this nanotechnology, an
astronaut would inject a clear fluid, placed with nanoparticles, into his
bloodstream before a space mission. During flight, he would put a small
device shaped like a hearing aid into his ear. This device would use a tiny
laser to count glowing cells as they flow through capillaries in the
eardrum. A wireless link would relay the data to the spaceship’s main
computer for processing. This scenario is at least 5-10 years away;

however most of the important research is being conducted in the
laboratory. The researchers are trying to fix nanoparticles on lymphocytes
and the answer can be induced by detection of suicides enzymes produced
by the cell when it is irradiated.

4.5.3. Textile

Nanotechnologies can also be developed to improve astronauts comfort

and protection with textile innovations by creating space clothes more
efficient and more adapted to harsh space conditions. Various textile
technologies are under development not only for astronauts but they can
find applications in spacecraft.

Sensatex, a developer of integrated smart textile systems, has announced

in 2006 the beta launch of its Smart Shirt System. The system makes it
possible to remotely monitor a wearer's movement, heart rate, and
respiration rate in real-time through a conductive fibre grid that is
seamlessly knit into the material of the fully washable shirt.
Early research for the Smart Shirt System was funded by the DARPA9 and
the Technical Support Working Group. This kind of device combines
nanotechnologies enhancement for textile and improvement of health self
monitoring. The same is possible by addition of core shell nanoparticles.
They improve electrical, magnetic, optical properties and so can serve as
diagnostic coating for astronauts’ suits. Others nanoparticles can be used
to improve space textiles functions like silver nanoparticles that can
provide antibacterial and anti fungal functions (nanoroadSME, 2006).

Other developed products like Nano-Tex Coolest Comfort fabric or klimeo

fabric can be used for space applications because of the new properties
they provide: prevent moisture apparition, regulate internal temperature
according to the external one. It appears more like comfort applications
for astronauts but can become a critical point in the case of long manned

4.5.4 Life support conclusion

As enhancement of life management in space is a key topic of the future

years, several space studies are focused on it. They take advantage of the
electronics and medical researches achievements and fit them for space
applications. That is why the most advanced devices for life management
containing nanotechnologies are sensors for gas detection or other
medical applications.

The following table summarize the different nano applications for life
management in space under study:
US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

Technology Characteristic Interest Perspective
Nanocarpet Particles detection, space +++ Short term
radiation resistant
Carbon nanotubes in gas Improve their sensibility; harsh +++ Short term
sensors space conditions resistant
Carbon nanotubes in Lab Improve their sensibility; harsh +++ Short term
on a chip / Biochip space conditions resistant
Drug delivery Enhance health management +++ Middle term
Smart textile More adapted to space conditions, ++ Middle term
health monitoring

4.6. Satellites / Science payloads

Satellites are very small-unmanned spacecraft, which were first designed

for scientific analysis (observation / particles detection of earth, other
planets, universe) and for several years have been used for commercial
applications such as communication or GPS. Others functions of satellites
take place in military applications but this field will not be treated.

To achieve their missions, satellites are equipped by science payloads that

are functional devices allowing scientific analysis, data collection and
transmission. Technological needs will be different according to the
function of the satellite.

Scientific satellites are launched by national or international space

agencies to enhance the knowledge about space. It includes various
missions like earth observation; planet, universe exploration and so have
various functions like observation; atmosphere, planet surface particles
collect and analysis (bio, chemical or physical properties detection).

In the case of non-orbital mission one speaks more about probes. The
needs identified for this kind of missions are for one part development of
more autonomous systems in order to increase missions’ duration and on
the other hand the miniaturization of satellites to decrease their weight
and so decreasing launching costs. As probes are often used for deep
space exploration (e.g. asteroid belt) problems of miniaturization and
autonomy are all the more important.

Companies that use the potential of satellites for business have launched
commercial satellites. The two main commercial applications for satellites
are: communication (e.g. cell phones, TV) and GPS. The need identified
for commercial applications is clearly costs reduction and for that mass
and size saving.

Thus the evident technological trend for satellites is miniaturization (even

if there are some exceptions like in telecommunication where certain

satellites can reach several tons). Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957 (84
kg), satellites weights have decreased to reach a ten kg for current
satellites in orbit. Researches are currently focused on the nano and pico
satellite development. Prefix used to qualify those satellites doesn’t
express the size of the satellite itself but a class of weight (1 to 10 kg for
nanosatellite, 0.1 to 1 kg for picosatellite). They most express an average
range of size components. The ultimate goal of satellite miniaturization is
the construction of a satellite-on-a-chip which represents the idea of a
completely functional satellite built as a monolithic integrated circuit.
Expected dimensions are: 216 cm² total design space, less than 5mm
thick, lass than 100g mass, 100 mW peak power (Barnhart et al., 2005).

In addition to the economic potential of nano/pico satellites represent,

miniaturized launches can also be very useful for technological
improvements and testing of new nanotechnologies. Aerospace is not a
very innovative sector in the sense where space launches are very
expensive and failure zero is needed. A co-founder of CANEUS, Thomas
George said “technologies flying in space are 10 years behind what is
state of the art terrestrially” (CANEUS, 2002). So the use of well-known
technologies is safer in the same time for astronauts in the case of
manned missions and for space agencies budgets.

But the revolutionary potential of nano/pico satellites to make small, light

and cheap satellites can change the use of emerging technologies like
nanotechnologies in spacecraft. If satellites are cheaper, quantity
launched can be increased at equal costs. It means that some of them can
be lost without serious financial consequences. So space agencies can
consider the use of their satellites not only for space mission but also for
nanotechnologies testers in order to improve both their space and
technological knowledge. Thus, nanotechnologies development follows a
kind of virtuous spiral due to satellites potential:

Thus within the main space agencies program, industries are involved in
the satellite miniaturization race which includes a part of enhancement in

the on board nanotechnologies integration. Several examples can be

The NPS CANEUS program goal is to transform satellite from a prohibitive

tool to a consumer good and consider launch of a satellite including
advanced nanotechnologies for 2009 in those components:
Thermal management control, power management, attitude and station-
keeping, communications and control, data management, autonomous
navigation (in 2011), coordinated formation flying (in 2011) (Delft
University of Technology and Systematic, 2005)

Target Costs for Satellite Classes Show 100x improvement!

Satellite Mass Target Costs ($ million) Total Cost
Group (including Manufacturing Launch Insurance
Large >10,000 kg $154.0 M $100.0M $62.0 M $316 M
Nano 1-10 kg $3.0M $0.2M $0.8M $4.0M
Pico Sat 0.1-1 kg $1.5M $0.1M $0.4M $2.0M

Figure 4.5 : CANEUS


NASA has several missions already including micro technologies on nano

or picosatellite (e.g. OPAL mission, ST5). They are also implicated in test
research program called Space Test Program (SPT) to test various new
technologies directly on board satellites (e.g. TECH SAT 21).

To achieve the goal of on board testing, several engineering schools build

satellite programs for their students. By this way student improve their
spacecraft knowledge and space agencies can take this opportunity to test
their new technologies like nanotechnologies in space conditions (e.g.
Delphi C3, Delft University of Technology and Systematic, 2005 and Star
shine 3 Satellite10)

Thus, nanotechnologies will not revolutionize the miniaturization process

because MEMS technologies have already allowed significant weight
reductions. On the other hand they can bring solutions for various
satellites stakes:
• Improve satellites autonomy for deep space mission using
technologies developed in the part dedicated to energy.
• Optimise structure and function of various payloads that will be
described in this part.

See: http://ilrs.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi-

So satellite miniaturization has the potential to accelerate introduction of
advanced nanotechnologies not only in satellites but also in all the

4.6.1. Satellite subsystems

Satellites are divided in various subsystems; the mains are summarized


Electrical power subsystem:

As satellites are often autonomous spacecraft, electrical power subsystem

is a strategic point for them. All the nanotechnologies potentialities in this
field were described in the part dedicated to energy. We can note that
power wires are developed by Rice University under a NASA contract.

Data handling subsystem:

The data handling subsystem is basically the on-board computer for the
satellite, responsible for several jobs. It receives, validates, decodes and
distributes commands from the ground, payloads or other subsystem. It
also gathers processes and formats spacecraft housekeeping and mission
data for downlink or use on board. This sub-system implies both use of
advanced software and hardware.
Nanotechnologies applications for electronics can contribute to the
protection against space radiations but another nanotechnology
application could enhance data handling performances. Even if it is a long-
term application, several advances were made in the field of quantum
computing. These include building two- and three-quit quantum
computers capable of some simple arithmetic and data sorting. Large
technical issues must still be resolved. (VDI, 2003) The main potential
advantage quantum computing represent is still its potential to secure
data transmission by efficient information encoding.

Attitude and orbit determination / control subsystem:

Attitude determination subsystem (ADCS) and orbit control subsystem

(OCS) function is to keep the spacecraft pointed in a desired direction to
meet mission requirement. Tools used in those subsystems (e.g. a
gyroscope) have to be more efficient and secure and on the other hand
have to be as light as possible. Nanotechnological developments relevant
to this area include both detectors to monitor spacecraft dynamics and
devices to control those dynamics. The detectors can include optical
detectors (e.g. micro nanotechnologies star mappers), magnetometers (to
determine attitude with respect to the geomagnetic field) and MEMS-
based sensors to determine the rate of angular motion (NASA, 2001).

Propulsion subsystem:

Because non-ideal forces can make a satellite move from its trajectory,
propulsion subsystem is needed to mitigate this effect. Several studies
were conducted to study the feasibility of miniaturized propulsion
subsystems. Today only MEMS or micro propulsion effort (this technology
embeds discreet amounts of propellant in an array of sealed capsules on a
silicon substrate (Barnhart et al., 2005)) were achieved but a CANEUS
project is currently focused on research for low mass, high energy density
storage systems and micro-nanotechnology based batteries for providing
adapted solutions of miniaturized propulsion system according to the kind
of space mission.

4.6.2. Science payloads

Science payloads are anything that a spacecraft carries beyond what is

required for its operation during flight. This includes the instruments for
analysis (sensors, imaging tools) in the case of scientific mission and the
communication instruments in the case of commercial satellites.

Even if there are several different payloads according to their mission,

three main kinds of payloads have been identified:
• Sensors
• Imaging instruments
• Communication systems Sensors

Sensors will use electronics technologies developed in part 2.2.2 of the

present report according to their functions. They can be used to detect
biological components (e.g. bacteria), chemical components (e.g. planet
atmosphere composition), or physical components. Various technologies
are being developed to make sensors based on nanotechnologies such as
quantum dots, nanocrystals to enable wavelength-selective emission,
carbon nanotubes, nanophotonic waveguide potentially suitable for
interconnections needed to build “photonic chips” (Aerospace America,

The geometric factor of a detector sets the number of particles it will

collect and thus the instrument’s ability to count statistically significant
numbers of particles. In this case sensor miniaturisation will reduce this
ability and thus may compromise measurements. So the limiting factor of
sensor miniaturization is to measure a critical flux and sensor size can be
reduced only where it does not compromise measurements at that level
(Aerospace America, 2005).

Sensors can be used to detect energetic particles specific for space (solar
protons, radiation belt electrons, auroral electrons). A nanosensor based
on niobium nitride was built by a team of Delft University of Technology
and Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON) to detect terahertz
frequencies. Terahertz frequencies are contained in cosmic radiation and
so can be used to have more information about the birth of star systems
and planets. First tests on earth atmosphere are planned for 2008.

Sensors can also be used to detect bio molecules on the principle of

ground lab-on-a-chip. Researchers from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight
Centre are working on the adaptation of ground lab-on-a-chip for space
mission and more especially for Mars exploration. This array will be used
for the identification of genes, DNA, bio molecules that can found on the
Mars surface (NASA, 2004).

The most advanced structure containing nanosensors is “black box”

developed by NASA in collaboration with Aerospace Corporation.
This black box containing nanosensors will be attached to a main
spacecraft and will separate from it when it re-enters the Earth's
atmosphere. Nanosensors are used to gather data such as temperature or
pressure about flights vehicles re-entering earth atmosphere to validate
thermal protection systems for human missions. It can improve reliability
and safety of crewed vehicles and aid in planetary exploration, to help
reduce the hazards of re-entering debris. The NASA black box or Re-entry
Break-up Recorder (REBR) weights about 1 kilogram.

A prototype test was envisaged for summer 2006 aboard an expendable

Delta II rocket but as the rocket was not launched the prototype was not
tested. Moreover NASA has plan to rapidly use nanosensors systematically
in mission to Mars and the moon, if everything goes fine, routine use of
nanosensors is planned for around 2025. Nanosensors would be packed
into small spheres to be used with the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV),
NASA's future replacement for the shuttle. This CEV will be shown in a
demonstration flights by 2008 and manned flights are expected for 2014
(NASA, 2005).
This black box flight, expected soon, represents a big step in
nanotechnologies application for aerospace. Even if some nano
applications in energy or materials are very soon available, it is considered
as the real first nano object used in spacecraft.

Figure 4.6 : REBR, the Aerospace Corporation
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/multimedia/images/2005/blackbox.html Imaging instruments

Imaging instruments include cameras, spectrometers, altimeters,

photometers for both visible, infrared, ultra violet, radars (to collect
information of the inside of the planet). Concerning instruments
themselves, no nanotechnologies applications have been identified except
the possibility to introduce carbon nanotubes based electronics in
instruments. For example, a carbon nanotube based X-ray diffraction
spectrometer has been developed and would be ready for NASA Mars
missions 2009-2010 in order to study rocks and soil.

Except this future application, some imaging instruments can be used to

identify space components at the nanoscale like scanning probe
microscopes and secondary ion mass spectrometers that have a resolution
to the nanometre. Communication

Nanotechnologies can contribute to the enhancement of data handling,

communication intra satellite; inter satellite, between earth and
spacecraft. Even if power data transmission will be different according to
the distance to transfer and the kind of mission, technologies developed
find applications in all the communication structure. A communication
system is often made by an antenna to receive and/or emit data. This
latter can be build with carbon nanotubes as it investigates by NASA for
antenna at optical frequencies. MEMS-based phased-array antennae are
also investigated. In the long-term these could prove important because

of the critical need for real-time data downlink to support some kind of
missions such as the space weather satellite (Kraft, 2005). New
metamaterials for antenna arrays are also planned.

Carbon nanotubes can also be used as mass saving for microwaves

amplifier. Long distance transmissions are based on microwaves but
traditional microwaves amplifier are heavy (1 kg). As a kilogram payload
roughly costs € 15 000 on a satellite, the need of payload weight saving is
a priority for satellite competitiveness.

The current microwaves amplifier used in space are based on “hot

cathode” technology. A team of researchers from Cambridge University
showed that a “cold cathode” is possible using carbon nanotubes that can
directly generates electrons at microwaves with an economy in weight and
size of almost 50% (Teo et al., 2005)

The communication system is made up of a transmission data system

using most of the time optical data communication that include nano
optoelectronics diffractive optical elements, optoelectronic transducers and
photonic components. Optical satellite telecommunication can be enabled
by the application of nanostructured optoelectronic components. These
include e.g. quantum well or quantum dot lasers and photonic crystals.

Photonic crystals are a further example of nano-optoelectronic

components with application potential in optical data communication. Two-
dimensional structures can be routinely manufactured with high precision.
At present, intensified efforts are made for the development of three-
dimensional photonic crystals. Three-dimensional photonic crystals would
open up new possibilities in optical data communication (light could be
guided and branched to arbitrary directions) and offer in principle the
potential for the realization of purely optical circuits (optical computing).

Infrared sensors offer an alternative way of making optical data

communication. The infrared sensors can benefit from the use of
quantum wells, quantum wires or quantum dots through miniaturisation
and improved band gap selection. The centre for space microelectronics
technology at NASA is developing GaAs quantum well infrared sensors
(VDI, 2003). However nanoscale infrared sensors are not available as yet.

Quantum technology, developed since 2000 at the NASA Glenn Research

Centre could also solve the ongoing problem of how to communicate with,
or otherwise extract information from, a nanoscale electromechanical
systems (NEMS) device. This technology will be used in the future to
develop optical communications protocols and components applicable for
nanorobots. Quantum information may potentially enable a strong safe
information encoding.

Finally it is important to notice that not only traditional optical data
transmission are improved by nanotechnologies but also nanotechnologies
allow the building of materials with innovative properties that can play a
role in data handling. As an example aerospace scientist continued to
explore the use of nanoscale glass ceramic that enhances internal
communication via photonics.

4.6.3 Satellites / Payloads conclusion:

The most spectacular scientific improvements in the satellites and

payloads topic are the progress made to build more integrated smaller
devices. This topic has identified the main activities in nano and pico

The following table summarize the different nano applications for satellites
and science payloads in space under study:

Technology Characteristic Interest Perspective

Carbon nanotubes Sensor sensibility improvement; harsh +++ Short term
based sensors space conditions resistance
Black box using First nanointegrated object for space. +++ Very short
nanosensors Small device integrating several term
sensors resisting to harsh space (available)
Nanoelements for Improve their efficiency, harsh space + Middle term
imaging instruments conditions resistant
Quantum information Enhance security of information +++ Long term

4.7. Futuristic visions

If in the near future applications of nanotechnology seem possible for

traditional missions, their applications have a huge potential to achieve
some very old human dreams. Indeed as flying was considered as science
fiction two centuries ago, some space dreams that currently appear like
science fiction may be achieved one day and surely with the help of

To promote scientific researches for space futuristic vision like space

elevator or space colonisation, NASA has an institute devoted to those
questions: the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC11) has the
mission is to promote forward-looking research on radical space
technologies that will take between 10 to 40 years to come to fruition.
ESA also explores what can be space future with a collaborative project
called Ariadna12.

See: http://www.niac.usra.edu/
See: http://www.esa.int/gsp/ACT/ariadna/index.htm

4.7.1. Space elevator

In the most basic description the space elevator

is a 37,786 km cable that would stretch into
space from a floating platform in the equatorial
Pacific Ocean. Satellites or other payloads would
be loaded onto climbers which would ascend the
paper-thin cable by squeezing it between sets of
electrically driven rollers or electromagnetic
forces13 14. Even if it looks like a science fiction
objective, scientists are seriously thinking of its
implementation because of the big advantages it represents.

The current problems space scientists encounter with traditional launching

pad are:
• The huge energy consumption needed to launch a spatial object
• The weight constraints that it generates
• The associated risks (fire, rocket destabilization)

Thus the main advantages that a space elevator could allow are –

• The weight is not a problem anymore, therefore the number of

payloads onboard is no longer restricted
• Launches are definitely cheaper

All of this could call into question the current advanced technologies
because of the weight and price constraints that would be partly removed.
Thus a researcher from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Bradley Edwards,
has been credited with giving the most rigorous thought to the
components and technical breakthroughs that would be needed to build a
space elevator (Aerospace America, 2006). The main conclusions of his
research are that the main components in the construction of a space
elevator will be carbon nanotubes. Though the technology is not going to
be ready for this application soon. There has been some promising
research performed by Yuntian Theodore Zhu, who built a 4cm nanotube.
The challenge remains in constructing a cable that is 37, 786 km.

Another important aspect is the cable security. Some smarts materials

could be used to address this security challenge. The use of nanoscale
sensors could be made for detecting damage. Such smart materials do not
exist but research should be further conducted on it. Another constraint is
the management of the power supply to launch a satellite or a rocket with
the elevator. A potential solution may be by using light sensitive cells.
Laser light may be projected on gallium arsenide receptors that transform
it to electrical energy providing propulsion.
See: http://www.isr.us/Downloads/niac_pdf/contents.html
See: http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2000/ast07sep_1.htm

In order to address the technical barriers that scientists are facing with,
the NASA organizes a design contest every year to address these space
challenges. There are two parts to the challenge, the beam power and
tether15. There have been other concerns voiced such as terrorist attacks,
hacking risks and other environmental catastrophes it could bring. There
has also been concern about sharing the costs and risks internationally.

4.7.2. Space colonisation

These are exciting times for human space

exploration with several countries contemplating
and planning manned missions to “Moon, Mars and
beyond.” Indeed, space agencies such as NASA,
ESA, JAXA and the Chinese Space Agency are
planning a series of robotic and manned missions
that could culminate in the establishment of permanent habitats on the
Moon and possibly Mars. With these ambitious goals in mind, there have
been large-scale efforts to design new crew vehicles, as well as powerful
boosters and habitats to facilitate interplanetary human spaceflights.

Nanotechnologies can find several applications for those requirements

such as facing the huge constraint of space radiation with the use of
carbon nanotubes for living structures. They can be incorporated into
structures, electronics to allow sustainable constructions or in inhabitants’
suits to enhance human protection and health management.

But the main problem they will have to confront is the need for improved
monitoring of the human body. Humans on such missions would have to
confront microgravity, weak magnetic fields, ionizing radiation and other
cosmic hazards. Space agencies are involved in program dedicated to
enhance space life monitoring e.g., NASA invested 10M$ in 2006 in a
program called “NASA’s Bioastronautics Roadmap”.

The main problem will be to monitor astronauts’ health: several devices

are in development as it is described in part 4 but the long term effects of
radiation are very difficult to control.

But one of the projects of NIAC is the use of

bio-nanotechnologies to build molecular
machines / bio nano robot to create a sort
of "second skin" for astronauts to wear
under their spacesuits that would use bio-
nanotech to sense and respond to radiation
See: http://exploration.nasa.gov/centennialchallenge/cc_index.html

penetrating the suit, and to quickly seal over any cuts or punctures
(NASA, 2005).

Figure 7 : Bio/Nano robot, NASA Institute for Advanced Concept


However, even if those developments are expected in a quite long term,

the International Space Station can already serve as a test bed for
conducting research that will benefit long-range space exploration.

4.7.3. Autonomous systems

The ultimate goal pursued by spacecraft researchers is the building of a

complete autonomous system able to make its own analysis, store and
send the data, to communicate with other systems, capable of self
repairing. It can be spacecraft like satellites as well as advanced robots.

Satellites Swarm
To achieve autonomous goal, researches are
focused on satellites systems called cluster of
satellite or swarms. As the main stakes of this kind
of formation are secure communication and
autonomy (energy generation, storage), researches
are being conducted in sparse aperture signal
processing, micro propulsion, formation flying,
collaborative control, spatial ionosphere effects,
MEMS/NEMS and software intelligence.

Launch of formation satellites has already done to test and improve those
o TechSat 21, launched in 2003 is a flight experience of three micro
satellites to experimental concepts for clusters very low costs,
lightweight satellites in close formation.
o Space technology 5 (ST5) consists of three 20 kg satellites that will
demonstrate the feasibility of 100 or more sparsely distributed nano
satellite to make spatial and environment measurements. Satellites
are highly integrated with miniaturized electronics, extendable
booms and antenna, subsystems for communication and attitude
control, miniaturized thrusters and instrumentation.
o Orbital Express (OE) is a project sponsored by DARPA. It contains an
Autonomous Transporter and Robotic Orbiter (ASTRO) which is an
on orbit servicing vehicle designed for spacecraft diagnostic, repairs
and restocking (CANEUS, 2002).

Nanotechnologies can serve for the components quoted previously and
more generally for:
• Size and weight decrease of the structure by advanced
materials using nanotechnologies (part 1)
• Advanced electronics devices (part 2)
• Lighter and more powerful energy system (part 3)
• Advanced communication devices because with the increase of
communication between the different satellites, information
safety has to be maintained (e.g. quantum information)


A nanorobot could be defined as a robotic system capable of motion and

steering in a complex environment, collecting surface chemical / biological
samples or data, and communicating with the carrier spacecraft and the
earth control station. It is the most complex of all the systems
conceptualized so far, because they may include the integration of all the
above technologies plus extremely well-developed motors, sensors, and
steering systems to operate in extreme or rough environmental

As research on component materials, devices, and applications is already

in progress in laboratories, it is possible to envisage nanorobots in the
quite near future. The advantage in space exploration will be to carry
hundreds or thousands of such robots on each mission and to explore vast
areas of a remote planet in each mission.

To confirm this trend, NASA is currently working on a project called ANTS

(Autonomous NanoTechnology Swarm) which is 12 tetrahedrons (a
pyramid with 3 sides and a base) made of 26 struts (thin, extendable,
metal rods) for Mars exploration application containing nanotechnologies
like advanced nanosensors. Unlike the current wheeled rovers, it will be
autonomous, so it will not require instruction from a whole team of
scientists to complete a simple task. It will recognize obstacles and figure
out how to get around them. It has a huge advantage over wheeled
rovers because it does not require flat ground to operate properly.

A robot called "TETwalker" was tested in 2005 to

join the NASA swarm project. Traditional motors
were replaced with Micro- and Nano-Electro-
Mechanical Systems. The struts was replaced
with metal tape or carbon nanotubes that not
only reduce the size of the robots, but also
greatly increase the number that can be packed
into a rocket because tape and nanotube struts

Figure 4.8 : NASA TET walker

are fully retractable, allowing the pyramid to shrink to the point where all
its nodes touch.
All systems are being designed to adapt and evolve in response to the
environment. These miniature TETwalkers, when joined together in
"swarms," will have great advantages over current systems. The swarm
has abundant flexibility so it can change its shape to accomplish highly
diverse goals. This is the NASA first step to completely autonomous

4.7.4 Futuristic visions conclusion

Al those perspectives are in a long-term future and will may not be the
most appropriate in this future. Nanotechnologies already find a lot of
applications in futuristic vision because of the new technical opportunities
they offer but with the enhancement of “nanoresearch” in the following
years we can imagine that they will be the key for the achievement of
those “science fiction” projects.

4.8 Conclusion

Since 1957 and the launch of the first spacecraft, the space sector has
known several technological enhancements allowing more and more
scientific explorations and the development of commercial applications.
Nanotechnology is an emerging field that just begin to find applications in
ground devices. So it explains why nanotechnologies for space
applications are more a perspective than a reality.

Some nano applications can be considered as short term perspective (e.g.

nanosensors) and other are more visionary (e.g. molecular electronics).
But what is sure is that space agencies, and companies are engaged in the
development of nano applications for spacecraft because they are
convinced that those emerging technologies have the potential to:

• Help them to face space constraints, reducing costs

• Allow serious technological improvements necessary for the
development of novel space missions (manned mission to Mars)
• Create breakthroughs that can revolutionize space sector by making
it more innovative than it is currently by the possibility to test new
technologies in space conditions and by reaching futuristic visions
like the space elevator.

So to summarize potential nano applications in the space sector in a

chronological vision, the following scheme shows several applications
developed in space laboratory according to their potential time to market.
It is important to note that most of those applications are middle or long-

term vision and so are dependants of the technological improvements in
all the sectors concerned by nanotechnologies.

Another key aspect will be the priority that will be given by space agencies
to those technological improvements. Nanotechnologies have the potential
to enhance spacecraft, improving space knowledge and have also the
potential to be improved by the space sector. But nanotechnology
development is a long process and in some cases priority can be given to
the development of new space missions integrating well-known
technologies to the detriment of a focus on new technologies. This choice
is more strategic than scientific and is available for both sciences and
commercial applications.

Summary of the main nanotechnologies applications for spacecraft

according to their time to market

Autonomous nanorobots swarm

Space colonization

Autonomous satellites swarm

Nano/pico satellites Satellite on a chip Space elevator

CNT based lab on a

chip / biochip CNT based imaging instruments

Space sub- CNT based electronics noses Drug delivery

Black box using nanosensors Quantum Dots solar cells

Fuel cells using nanoelements Quantum devices for

information management
Battery using nanoelements

Smart textile
CNT based memory
Space Nanoparticles in
devices propellants MRAM CNT in transistors

Nanoparticles reinforcing composites CNT reinforcing coatings Bio memory

Nanoparticles reinforcing polymers CNT reinforcing composites Smart materials

Short term Middle term Long term

0-5 years 5-10 years 10-15 years


Materials Living suport

Electronics Science payloads

Energy Futuristic vision

This figure is inspired by VDI Technology Centre report “Applications of Nanotechnology

in Space Developments and Systems”. It summarizes the main nanotechnologies
applications for spacecraft on a time to market scale. This summary is only conclusions of
what was said in this report and under the only valuation of the author.

Chapter 5: Summary of Needs in Aerospace Research

5.1 Aeronautics

Aeronautics is a thriving sector in Europe with two million people

employed in manufacturing, operations and airports. The Advisory council
for aeronautical research in Europe has set a strategic agenda for research
that addresses important issues such as environmental pollution, safety,
security, quality and affordability, and an efficient air traffic management
system. The need in aeronautics research objectives has changed from a
generation ago from being higher, further and faster to aircraft that are
more affordable to travel in, safer and cleaner for the environment and
quieter for residents around airfields. The creation of a new framework
that assist organisations to work more effectively in achieving industrial
priorities is one of the goals for supporting the growth of the industry.
New standards of quality and effectiveness have been identified as goals
to accomplish in order to make European aerospace more competitive.
The maximum value from funds has been envisaged by facilitation of a
European national and private research programs. The educational policies
should be framed to ensure adequate scientists, engineers and other skill
sets are available for the aeronautics sector (ACARE4Europe, 2004-1).

Quality and Affordability Safety

- Reducing Travel Charges - Five fold reduction in average accident
- Increasing passenger choice rate for global operators
- Transforming Air Freight Services - Reducing impact of human error
- Creation of a competitive supply - Higher standard of training for aircraft
chain that reduces time to market by operators, maintenance and air traffic
half operations

Environment Goals for European Aeronautics

- Reduction in fuel consumption and
CO2 emissions by 50%
- Reduction in perceived noise by 50% Air Transport Efficiency
- Reduction in NOx emission by 80% - Enabling the Air Transport system to
- Reduction in environmental impact of accommodate 3 times more aircraft
the manufacture, maintenance and movement by 2020 compared with
disposal of aircraft and related 2000
products. - Reduction in time spent by short haul
passenger to 15 minutes and long haul
Security to 30 minutes
- Zero successful hijacks - Enabling 99% flights to arrive and
depart within 15 minutes of departure
time in all weather conditions.

Figure 5.1: Goals for European Aeronautics set by the Advisory Council
for aeronautical research in Europe

5.1.2 Airframes

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology provide a new method for solving old

problems. New solutions can be harnessed from the disruptive technology
for application in the aeronautics sector. Nanotechnology could prove
effective in dealing with unsteady aerodynamics problem such as drag
reduction using electromagnetic technologies. Morphing airframes have
been regarded as emerging technology for aircraft providing a structure
that would also reduce drag and vibration control thereby improving
aircraft performance (University of Bristol). Research is needed in
alternative lift mechanisms to derive lift by design of novel aero-
structures using nanomaterials. Plasma generating arcs reduce the
turbulence in engines thereby reducing the noise generated by aircraft.5
Another technology assisting the development of ultra green air transport
system is the high-lift engine airframe.

The solutions in aero structures are expected to bring benefits for green
air transportation by using lightweight materials and processes for the
airframe (ACARE4Europe, 2004-2). Nanotechnology surface application
research would lead to friction reduction thereby reducing the
environmental impact. Research in nanomaterials such as carbon
nanotube composites for weight reduction and reduced fuel consumption
is also expected to make air transport highly cost efficient.

Low environmental impact materials and manufacturing techniques for the

airframe, engine and other equipment is expected to reduce the
environmental impact. Research in the use of non-toxic material with
enhanced functionality such as non-inflammability is would also contribute
to the environmental objective. Composite materials such as Metal
RubberTM are reported to be non-toxic with applications in aircraft
structures (Nanosonic, 2004). The use of green coolant for manufacturing
is another environmentally friendly measure that is being encouraged.
Noise reduction using MEMS devices for active control of noise is
considered important for residents living around airports. Noise shielding
through developing the right configuration and acoustic panels require
further development. Enhancement in acoustic measurement and testing
technology has been envisaged to meet customer needs (ACARE4Europe,

5.1.3 Propulsion

High temperature materials and coatings for compressors, combustors

and turbine are considered as key to enhancing engine performance
thereby reducing the environmental impact. Development is further
required in ultra-high temperature alloys for aircraft engines. Silicon
carbide sensors are used for monitoring aeronautical propulsion systems

are being researched (Ohio Aerospace Institute, 2005). Lightweight
architecture and materials for engine rotors and structure have also been
considered an important requirement in aircraft engine design. Another
key development required is the design of components with reduced
thermo mechanical distortion and effective sealing for turbo machinery for
an environmentally friendly air transport system. New combustion
solutions are to be considered for the existing configuration that may
reduce the emission produced by conventional engine. New nacelle design
development is needed for air breathing propulsion that is expected to
reduce the environmental impact. Thrust reverser technologies for weight
reduction are also being developed as a key technology for achieving
environmental objectives (ACARE4Europe, 2004-2).

Alternative propulsion designs for future aircraft are being conceptualized.

Utilizing new forms of energy are being considered such as solar power,
nuclear energy, hydrogen from the sea, beam energy devices using laser
or microwaves and ground powered energy forms. (Covered in section
5.2) The search for a novel solution leading to a more sustainable energy
consumption that is affordable, practical and complimentary fossil fuel is

5.1.4 Aircraft avionics, systems and equipment

Enhanced airborne display development in the cockpit for routing and

traffic monitoring is expected to make the transportation system highly
efficient providing customers with high value addition. Research and
development in warning systems such as missile attack sensors and
missile defence are expected to provide enhanced security for air travel.
Development in sensor integration for detection using laser, radar and
infrared is expected to help achieve the security goals. Enhanced
communication systems with high performance air-ground data link would
improve the air traffic management and highly customer oriented air
traffic system. Camera and sensor technology research based on optics,
optronics, lasers for detection, data fusion and signal processing for
pattern recognition would make the new aircraft ultra secure. (Covered in
section 5.2)

Development of smart maintenance systems for condition monitoring of

airframes and structures are expected to increase the interval for servicing
thereby making the air transportation systems more cost effective.
Coating and improved sealing solutions need to be developed to increase
the lifetime of aircraft thereby making them more cost effective and
environmentally friendly. Increase re-uses of systems, components and
new repair methods have been identified to make aircraft more cost
effective. New materials should be considered for a maintenance free

system that is expected to drive down costs significantly (ACARE4Europe,

Emerging technologies such as application of fuel cells for on board

electrical energy generation during cruise and on ground should be
developed further for implementation achieving cost efficient and
environmental goals. In order to accomplish environmental goals the
development of oil free systems and replacement of polluting hydraulic
fluid with more electrical technologies (for e.g. braking system) in
hydraulic power generation should be under further consideration.
Development of enhanced fire protection system by use of fire retardant
material is considered as an important goal in achieving an ultra secure
transport system (ACARE4Europe, 2004-2).

5.1.5 Environment

The impact of carbon dioxide and Nox emissions from the aircraft has
added significantly to the greenhouse gas effect. In addition particulate
emissions such as water vapour and soot have also added to the impact
that affects the physical and chemical properties of the atmosphere. The
change in the atmospheric chemistry is complex and not understood very
well. Strategies for combating climate change have been suggested such
as combining routes of large aircraft, lower cruise speed, encouraging
short haul flights, reducing taxi time and eliminating circling. Further
research in the new low drag wing-body blended aircraft design is
expected reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50%.

Goal Research Challenge

Drag reduction through conventional
Environment and novel shapes

Fuel additives

Noise reduction

New Propulsion concepts

Emission reduction

Environmentally friendly production,

maintenance and disposal

Better aircraft/engine integration

Table 5.1: Relating environmental goals and research challenges

Research in other strategies such as reduction in emission by reducing
fuel burning has been proposed by aerodynamic improvements, weight
reduction and efficient engine. Development of laminar flow design is
needed for aerodynamics though innovation is required to reduce the
complexity. Development of designs in more adaptive structures would
reduce the need for additional control surfaces, engines with reduced
complexity and weight thereby reducing the fuel consumption. Nox control
remains a main problem that is not addressed even by reducing carbon
dioxide emissions by improving thermal efficiencies. The Nox emissions
are dependent on the take off weight and range of the aircraft. New
combustion technology and injection systems should be developed to
achieve an 80% reduction in Nox. Research in lean combustion should be
considered in order to meet the goals. Alternative fuels such as liquid
hydrogen, bio fuels, synthetic fuels and liquefied natural gas are should be
considered for further development (ACARE4Europe, 2004-2).

Noise produced by aircraft is another problem that is being addressed by

better design of aircraft. Research in low noise component design, landing
gear faring and acoustic panels should be further developed. New engine
designs such as the ultra high by pass ratio, geared fan and contra fan
have been developed to reduce noise but complete elimination cannot be
achieved without a radically new design. Micro-nanotechnologies are
expected to provide novel concepts to reduce the noise in the aircraft.

The environmental impact is reduced by design of vehicles that take into

consideration all factors from manufacturing to the end of the life cycle
disposal. The need for measuring techniques for boundary layer, acoustic
measurement under cryogenic condition and combustion are required for
improved aircraft design.

5.1.6 Safety and Security

Post 9/11 the security of the aircraft and passengers is considered of

paramount importance. The use of biometric controls for pilot
identification, development of non-lethal devices for terrorist
neutralization, enhanced video monitoring of passengers are some
measure to be further considered. Protection against electromagnetic
threats and secure communication data link are essential for the aircraft.
Automatic collision detection and deviation from flight plan are important
technology solutions to be considered and implemented. Protection
against missile attacks on passenger aircraft should be developed, using
heat signature reduction while providing detection and jamming facilities.
Development of on-board explosive detection systems equipped with high
sensitivity sensors and alarm systems, are expected to deliver higher
standards of security for aircraft (ACARE4Europe, 2004-2).

Goal Research Challenge

Flight hazard protection

Advanced avionics

Probability and risk analysis

Computational methods

Human error checking systems

Table 5.2: Relating Goal and Research Challenge for Safety and Security

5.1.7 Quality and affordability

Improving the quality of the flying and the flight experience has been an
important driver. The research challenges that relate to the quality and
affordability have been stated in the table 5.3 below.

Strategic Goal Research Challenge

Permanent trend Monitoring

Quality and
Affordability Flexible cabin Environments

Passenger services

Anticipatory maintenance Systems

Integrated avionics

Air Transport management related airborne Systems

Novel materials and structural concepts

Lead-time reductions

Integrated design manufacturing and maintenance systems

Advanced design methods

System validation through modelling and simulation

Concurrent engineering

Table 5.3: Research needs from Strategic Quality and Affordability goals
translating to research challenges

5.1.8 European Air Transport System

Europe is aiming to integrate the air transport system by improving

management of air transportation. The table below gives the overview of
some of the associated research challenges in Table 5.4.

Strategic Goal Research Challenge

European Air Innovative ATM operational concepts

Transport System
Advanced, intelligent and integrated ATM ground, airborne
and space systems

Rotorcraft integration in ATM systems

High-density traffic systems capability in all weather


Airport capacity and advanced management

Increased use of airspace capacity

Table 5.4: Relating European Air Transport System relation with Research

5.1.9 Future concepts for Guidance & Control

Enhanced avionics and automation have been envisaged for future aircraft
where computers manage the entire flight from landing to takeoff.
Enhancement in the computing power with the application of
nanotechnology to transistors is expected to greatly enhance centralized
and dispersed operations. Improvements in computing power are also
expected to bring benefits to robotics leading to the development of
independent robots controlling specific tasks.

5.1.10 Current Research

The research can be broadly divided into 5 themes in the nanotechnology

sector: structure and materials, application needs and requirements,
systems and sub systems, reliability and packaging, missions and

a. Structures and Materials

Carbon nanotubes are one of the most important nanomaterials being

developed for aerospace applications. Studies are being conducted in the
use of carbon nanotubes for aerospace applications by University of Rome
and INFN- Laboratori Nazionali de Frascati. Other research in carbon
nanotube for space applications is being conducted at NASA investigating
multifunctional characteristics of embedded structures with carbon
nanotube yarn. University of Minnesota has been investigating layer-by-
layer self-assembly of carbon nanotube patterns and interconnections.
Minnesota State University has been evaluating the shear properties of
polymer nanocomposites (Caneus, 2006).

Damping properties and dynamics of nanoparticles for reinforced damping

material are being researched by NAS of Belarus. Molecular dynamics
modelling of thermal conductivity of engineering fluids and its
enhancement by inclusion of nanoparticles is being studied by the National
Institute of Technology. The Boeing Company is investigating the
enhancement of conductivity in composite materials using nanotechnology
(Caneus, 2006).

b. Application needs and requirements

ASRC aerospace and NASA have jointly collaborated to investigate the

application of sensors in space vehicles. Airbus has investigated the
requirements for airframe enhancement using nanotechnologies (Caneus,

c. Systems and sub-systems

There is a significant amount of work being done in MEMS for aerospace

applications. MEMS based one-shot electro thermal switches for system
reconfiguration is being developed by LAAS- CNRS. Monolithic silicon
based micro thrusters for orbital and altitude control, are fabricated using
the MEMS technology by Carlo Gavvachi Space and CNR IMM. Novel
surface-micro machined micro mirrors for optical MEMS beam
manipulators are being investigated by University of Toronto for aerospace
applications. Kyushu University in Japan is studying the contemporary
technology and applications of the MEMS rocket. The Northwestern
Polytechnic University is investigating the use of MEMS in aerodynamic
flow control. Politecnico di Milano has been researching MEMS integrated
electro-fluid-elastic modelling for aerospace applications. Presens has
been studying silicon MEMS pressure sensors for aerospace applications.
Design and fabrication of Non-powered MEMS trajectory sensors are being
developed by CEA, DAM and CNAM in France. The Tokyo University of
Science is involved in developing application of MEMS technology to a
Light wave antenna for communication in space and aeronautics. Colibrys
have developed standard MEMS capacitive accelerometer for harsh

environments. Swedish Space Corporation in collaboration with Nanospace
AB is developing MEMS based components and sub-systems for space
propulsion. EADS CCR is developing a MEMS sensor to design a life
consumption monitoring system for electronics (Caneus, 2006).

CNES is conducting research in spacecraft control and command. The

EADS micropak project is developing a novel modular system for
packaging integrated Microsystems for future applications. The National
research council in Canada has been researching micro fibre optical sensor
interrogation systems for aerospace applications. Thermo elastic damping
in vibrating beam accelerometers has been studied using a finite element
approach by University of Liege and ONERA. The Surrey Space centre has
been researching satellite on a chip development for future distributed
space missions. LAAS-CNRS has been investigating the development of
optical micro resonators used for stabilisation and miniaturisation of high
spectral purity microwave sources for space applications. Design and
performance of quartz inertia micro sensors has been investigated by
ONERA. Nanosensors for gas detection in space and ground applications
are being developed by ASRC aerospace. New technologies for a space
launcher telemetry system are being developed by Astrium Space
Transportation. Bio Inspired micro driller for future planetary exploration
is being researched by ESA and University of Surrey. The fabrication and
performance testing of miniature electro thermal thrusters using
microwave-excited micro plasmas has been developed by Kyoto University
(Caneus, 2006).

d. Packaging and reliability testing

Magma Space technology is involved with developing, manufacturing and

verifying micro-electro mechanical louvers. CNES and Nova MEMS are
involved in hermiticity assessment of MEMS packaging –leak rate
measurements based on Infrared spectroscopy. EADS is developing high
temperature MEMS pressure sensors including reusable packaging for
rocket engine application. EADS in collaboration with Albert Ludwig
University is also developing low maintenance MEMS packaging for rotor
blade integration. Design of packaged RF MEMS switching on alumina
substrate is being developed by Xlim. MEMS reliability studies such as
accurate measurement of beam stiffness using nanoindentation

5.1.11 Aeronautics application in other industries

Novel solution developed for aerospace applications has benefited other

industries as well. The example are aerodynamic design of cars, disc
braking for cars and trains and anti-lock braking system, software
systems for displays, composite materials, materials for artificial limbs,

thermal imaging camera’s for rescue and police work and advanced
business project management.

5.1.12 Funding and investment

Aerospace and aviation is considered an important sector for Europe. The

benefits from the sector are creation of 3 million jobs and 2.6% of the
GDP to the individual member states. Indirect benefits through lifestyle
and the way business is being done has been estimated to be 10% of the
GDP. Reviewing the research needs ACARE has recommended an increase
in funding by 65% over a 20-year period that is being invested currently.
The investment is in accordance with the Barcelona European Council aims
that would need to be met by public and private sources in a ratio of two-
third private and one third public (ACARE4Europe, 2004-1).

Contrasting the initiative to the American effort where 87% of the known
airliners are being built. It has been estimated that public funding in US is
three times that of the European Union and its member states. The annual
turnover and number of people employer in US in this sector is more than
twice of that by EU. Similarly the amount of US export in the aerospace
sector is also known to be twice of the European Union (ACARE4Europe,

5.1.13 Policy

The new investment in research and development programme would

become successful only when organisation would conduct their research in
Europe thereby retaining their bases. In addition 50,000 additional human
resources would be required to fulfil the need to research goals. Measure
to increase the production of research output is required as opposed to
importing the research outputs.

5.1.14 Education and Training

Employment in all aspects from manufacturing to air traffic control is at 3

million at the moment and set to rise to 5-7 million by 2020. A skills
shortage is expected in the aerospace sector partly due to demographics
and reduced attractiveness of the aerospace sector. A multi-disciplinary
approach to training with excellent communication skills, open
mindedness and cultural awareness is required. With the falling level of
graduates taking up science and technology education, the demand for
specialists with good fundamental knowledge of aerospace is set to rise.
Another trend observed with graduating students is the fall in the number
of students being recruited by the technology supply chain. There has

been an alignment between courses offered at Universities and aerospace
employers needs. A strong need to develop a permanent forum for
dialogue between Universities and aerospace companies has also been
voiced to ensure appropriateness and quality of education provided. The
need for a pan European accreditation has also been beginning with a
voluntary system in the aeronautical discipline has been made.

5.1.15 SME

The supply chain orientation is so that large companies play a central role
in integration. With the increased global competition, these companies
have been presented with a choice of suppliers across the world putting
the pressure on the small and medium size businesses in the supply chain.
The SME business in the supply chain would need to implement global
best business practices and leverage industrial alliances to become more
competitive. This would require development of lean practices that
improve the performance of the SME.

5.1.16 Conclusion

Aeronautics and aviation is an important sector for the European industry.

The identification, development and implementation of nano-scale
technologies in aeronautics would increase the global competitiveness of
this industry. Greater research is required in the development
nanotechnologies for aeronautic applications. There is also an imminent
need to increase communication between research communities in
aeronautics research and nanotechnology research. The implementation of
emerging technologies in aeronautics lags a decade or in some cases even
more. Therefore it maybe reasonably expected that the implementation of
present nanotechnology would take another 20 years after the concepts
and components have been thoroughly validated for airworthiness.

5.2 Statement of needs for Research and Development in


5.2.1 Introduction

The exploration of the vastness of space has driven the active

development of space programmes in various countries. An exhaustive
survey of 384 organizations in Europe, North America and Asia has
revealed that 74% of research is being conducted in research institutions
(illustrated in figure 1). The technological development has also spurred
activity that has been beneficial for terrestrial applications as well.

Research in the space industry is being driven by a desire to reduce the
mass and volume of payload lifted into space. Reduction in the size and
energy consumption of electronics on board for data processing and
control systems is another important driver for research. A significant
research goal is to increase the autonomy of spacecraft by improving
altitude and orbit control, health monitoring and payload monitoring.
Financial investment will determine the development of lightweight and
energy saving satellites, rockets, and infrastructure for space stations. The
need to reduce costs is further pushing commercial off the shelf
technology into space applications.

The development of space programmes has also driven scientific discovery

such as micro gravity research and commercial applications such as
satellite communication. Enhanced services such as GPS, GIS and
communications are expected from these commercial satellites placed in
orbit. Improved spin off products enabled by nanotechnology are also
expected for terrestrial applications.

Figure 5.2: Nanotechnology Research around the world. Adapted from

the presentation of Nanotechnology in future space mission by Miland
Pimpprikar et al. presented at ESA- ESTEC 2003.

The barriers to the implementation of nanotechnology research and

development range from economics factors to the readiness of the
concept. The high research and development costs associated with
applications in energy, electronics and nanobiotechnology solutions may
hinder development in the long-term future. The solutions developed for
terrestrial applications in nanotechnology are more likely to be adapted for
space in Europe as compared to the US. Other barriers to implementation
of research are likely to be extreme conditions in space such as high
radiation, temperature changes and high cyclic loading of structure in take
off and re-entry, and the lack of communication between communities
involved in space and nanotechnology research. This is expected to slow
implementation of research in Europe.

This summary of research needs has been compiled by reviewing the

problems and challenges faced by various nanotechnology applications in

space. The various technology solutions are at different stages such as
fundamental or basic research, applied research, proof of concept and
validation. Each of these research needs or concepts is considered of some
strategic importance to the space objectives.

5.2.2 Nanomaterials for space craft structure

Space research has been driven by the goal to reduce the lift-off mass of
spacecraft, and improving safety and flexibility of space missions.
Reduction of costs is also an important parameter for space missions.
Nanomaterials research could contribute to the successful achievement of
these goals. New research is required in light nanocomposite materials,
thermal control elements, miniaturized cooling loops and heat exchangers.

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) offer a distinct advantage as lightweight

materials and are regarded as one of the core materials in bringing
nanotechnology benefits to space. Other properties such as changes in
mechanical properties that can be detected by changes in electrical
resistance make them excellent candidates for sensors (Zweck & Luther,

Production issues have limited the use of CNTs in reinforced polymers.

These include: development large-scale production methods
(www.nanocompositech.com), uniform dispersion of CNTs in the matrix of
the composite material, alignment and adhesion of carbon nanotubes in
reinforced polymers (www.space.com), and production of CNTs of a
uniform size and in high volume (Science Daily, 2005). The integration of
nanoparticles into components such as airframes has to be researched
further before the excellent mechanical and heat resistance properties of
CNTs can be put to useful application.

CNT yarns could be potentially used for weaving larger fibres that may
have applications in electromagnetic shielding, design impact resistance
space stations or astronaut suits. However further research is required to
develop macroscopic components that may translate into applications
(Zweck & Luther, 2003). Applications based on CNTs are expected only in
the long term. Nanoparticles such as silicates (montmorillonite) and POSS
(polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane) are also being considered for
reinforcing polymers. Further research is required for the successful
demonstration of their reinforcing properties.

Metal matrix composites have excellent properties such as high heat

resistance, strength, thermal conductivity, thermal expansion and low
density. Materials such as metals reinforced with ceramic fibres such as
silicium carbide, aluminium oxide and aluminium nitride are being
examined for application in various airframe structures of spacecraft.

However such materials require further research into their thermo
mechanical properties before application as heat shields.

Nanocrystalline metals and their alloys such as that of aluminium also

offer excellent thermo mechanical properties. This is dependent on the
nanostructure of the material that can be controlled using nanopowders.
With further research they may replace titanium components in liquid
rocket engines, as they are light and less prone to embrittlement by
hydrogen (Zweck & Luther, 2003). Nanostructured ceramic composites,
such as carbon fibres coated with boron nitride, act as a thermal and
oxidative protection for construction material. Proof of concept studies are
required in the application of these nanostructured materials as sensors,
optoelectronic components and space structures.

Space missions have to endure extreme conditions including dramatic

temperature changes. Therefore thermal protection is a very important
area. Enhanced thermal protection for spacecraft can increase re-usability
of the vehicles thereby reducing costs. Ceramic fibre composites offer
excellent thermal barriers for components such as nozzles and rocket
combustion chambers or as heat shields used in re-entry. NASA is
considering nanostructured ceramics such as silicon carbide for
exceptional heat and radiation resistance properties (AZoNano, 2005).
Research is needed in controlling the grain growth of ceramics during the
sintering process that would improve the density and thereby the firmness
of spacecraft components (Zweck & Luther, 2003).

Electronic equipment in space crafts is sensitive to large variations in

temperature, affecting communications, information processing and
control of the space craft. Nanomaterials such as diamond-like carbon
have a high thermal conductivity (4 times that of copper) and have been
used for thermal monitoring in nanosatellites. Diamond-like carbon also
provides corrosion resistance to oxygen over a wide range of
temperatures. Further applied research is required in application of
diamond- like-carbon as corrosion resistance. One of the most promising
areas of research are MEMS structures where their friction, stiction and
wear properties make them an excellent candidates for use in moving
mechanical assemblies (Milne, 2003).

Magnetic fluids are currently used as sealing and damping media, however
they could be utilized for thermal protection of control systems for
miniaturized electronic components or as self-lubricating bearing for micro
mechanical components. Further research is required in utilizing the
viscous, electrical and thermal properties of magnetic fluids for thermal
control for miniature electronics.

5.2.3 Energy Production and Storage

Nanomaterials, thin films and membranes with nanometre dimensions are

applicable in a range of energy generation and storage devices such as
fuel cells, solar cells, super capacitors and batteries. This section will
examine the technical challenges that need to be overcome before these
technologies can be used in spacecraft.

a. Solar cells

Nanomaterials have tremendous potential for increasing the efficiency of

solar cells. Areas that require research include anti-reflective coating and
collectors. At present research is focused on III-V semiconductors such as
gallium arsenide and indium phosphide. Basic research is required in
engineering the band-gap of these solar cells so that longer wavelengths
of light can be converted to electrons thereby increasing efficiency.
Quantum dot solar cells have also been considered as an alternative
solution. However, the optimum material combinations need further
exploration for example from the III-V semiconductors or combinations of
silicon/germanium, silicon/beryllium or tellurium/selenium. Organic dye-
based, or Graetzel, solar cells are also the subject of much research due
to a low manufacturing cost. The main disadvantage of such dye-based
solar cells is the low conversion efficiency (10% maximum efficiency in
experimental systems). Research on the nanoporous layer of titanium
dioxide and novel dye molecules is aimed at increasing this efficiency
(Institute of Nanotechnology, 2006).

b. Fuel cells

Fuel cells combine hydrogen (fuel) and oxygen (from air) to produce water
and an electric current. Fuel cells are considered as an alternative to
batteries in space applications. Nanotechnology research in this sector is
focused on improving efficiencies by enhancing the performance of
catalysts, membranes and hydrogen storage. Fuel cells with the exception
of direct methanol fuel cells require hydrogen. Methanol is easier to store,
however, direct methanol fuel cells face the problem of carbon monoxide
poisoning of the catalysts, and overcoming this is the focus of much
current research. Other areas that require further development include the
proton exchange membrane, to enhance proton transfer and therefore

Solid oxide fuel cells operate at a much higher temperature and are more
efficient; however they require ceramics that are stable at high
temperatures. Current research on ceramic nanopowders such as yttrium
stabilised zirconium aims to improve their ionic conductivity and thermal
stability for high temperature solid oxide fuel cells.

Hydrogen storage has been considered one of the most critical problems
in the successful implementation of fuel cells. Increased research is
needed to investigate the role of nanocrystalline metal hydrides such as
magnesium nickel alloys for high temperature storage and lanthanum
nickel alloys for low temperature storage. High absorption capacity has
been reported for carbon nanotubes; however the results were not
reproducible. Further research is required to have reproducible results in
hydrogen storage with carbon nanotubes or alkali metal doped graphite.

c. Batteries and Accumulators

Lithium ion batteries and nickel metal hydride accumulators have been
implemented within the power supply of space systems. The performance
of these batteries can be improved further by using nanostructured
materials. Materials that are being developed include carbon aerogels,
carbon nanotubes, and vanadium oxide for cathodes and tin/antimony for
anodes. Further research is required to produce higher power density and
durability by controlled charge diffusion and oxidation state on a
nanoscale level. With the increasing miniaturisation of electronics, the
development of thin film batteries is seen as an important step. Thin film
batteries can also be integrated with thin film solar cells. Research and
development would be required in thin film deposition techniques for
development of such devices.

d. Capacitors

Super capacitors, also known as nanocaps, are expected to increase

power density significantly. The use of carbon nanotubes as electrode in
nanocaps increases the surface area leading to a boost in the charge. One
of the main issues is integrating super capacitors with highly dense
circuitry for microchips. This implementation of this technology is
expected to be another 6 – 8 years away (Space daily).

Research at present is being conducted in using self-assembled electrically

charged polymer layers as electrolyte. Alternative materials such as
carbon aerogels are also being investigated for electrodes due to their
large internal surface area, controlled pore distribution and pore diameter
(Pröbstle et al, 2002). Other electrode materials that need further
research are nanoscale spinel structures such as magnesium aluminates.
Increasing the electrical conductivity is being investigated through the
incorporation of nanoparticles of, for example, alkali metals.

5.2.4 Data Storage, Processing and Transmission

Data processing and systems control are an important area for spacecraft.
Nanotechnology applications can enable highly integrated avionics,

wireless data communication and state of the art sensors. There is
research being conducted at NASA for data processing and communication
systems that need minimum energy. The research is also being conducted
in highly integrated nanodevices to be used in miniaturized space
systems. One area that has been highlighted for new research is a
quantum device for applications in ultra sensitive detection, analysis and

a. Electronics

There is a range of nanotechnology applications in electronics for

spacecraft, including: amplifiers, diodes, silicon circuits, micro mechanical
and micro fluidic systems. Research needs for some of these applications
have been elaborated.

High electron mobility transistors (HEMT) and heterojunction bipolar

transistors (HBT) are nanotechnology enabled high-speed electronic
components. With a high signal to noise ratio these transistors are used in
microwave receivers and transmitters for radar and communication
systems. Research is required in wide band gap semiconductors such as
silicon carbide and gallium nitride that will form the basis of future
transistors. These materials offer features such as high power density,
increased operating voltage, smaller component size and higher efficiency
leading to lower cooling requirements. Further development would be
required in integrating of such systems into miniaturization of satellites.

Tunnelling components such as the resonant tunnelling diodes (RTD) use

fast quantum mechanical tunnelling. RTDs are used in high frequency
oscillators, optoelectronic switches and photo detectors that have
applications in digital electronics for satellite communication. The first
logical circuits have been developed but more research is required in their
production and processing. The problem faced in RTD production is
ensuring the geometry of components on which the property depends.
Research is also required into the selection of materials as silicon or
silicon-germanium alloys are expected to integrate well with current
silicon circuits. Several technical problems need to be solved for RTD to
become more practical.

Anti-static coatings made from a dispersion of carbon nanotubes in

polymer matrix, are transparent and allow high electrical conductivity.
They have applications in space structures and electrode material for solar
cells, and are expected to be in use earlier than other applications. At the
moment the focus is in providing a proof of concept and validation in

Magnetic nanocomposite materials are made up of nanoscale magnetic

crystals in an amorphous or crystalline matrix, such as that of polymer or
silicates. Soft magnetic nanomaterials are used in transformers and

inductors, whereas hard magnetic nanomaterials are used in energy
storage, data storage and sensors. Such nanocomposites have the
advantage of high sensitivity to changes in magnetic field and a wide
operating temperature range (Wincheski & Namkung, 2000). Research
and development is required using these properties in energy saving
antennas, inductors, sensors and data memories for various space

Magneto electronic sensors and memory chips are based on the magnetic
resistance effect (Magneto Resistance) that occurs in magnetic multilayer
systems. Such sensors and memory chips are consist of ultra-thin layers
of metals and insulators up to 1 nm thick. With further research they
could be developed as sensors for measuring position, acceleration, and
rotation. A problem that needs to be addressed is the limited operating
temperature range for space applications.

b. Optical Transmission

Nanotechnology applications for optical space components include X-rays

mirrors, high resolution optics, highly integrated CCD, plastic optics, and
laser systems. Lateral nanostructures can be used in improving optical
data communication by enhancing the performance of diffractive optical
elements, optoelectronic transducers, and photonic components. Research
in optoelectronics enabled by nanostructures can lead the way for
diffractive optics. Further areas include quantum wells, quantum dot
lasers, and photonic crystals. Research is also needed for nanostructures
that can be used for applications such as optical satellite
telecommunication, infrared sensors, and high resolution CCD.
Improvements are also needed in optical wireless data links for inter-
satellite communication. Such optical inter-satellite links have been
demonstrated by ESA on the ARTEMIS mission.

Quantum dots provide the freedom to cover the entire spectrum from
ultraviolet to infrared and production methods are now well characterised.
However for quantum dot lasers to be realized in space applications, it will
require specification of the laser, integration into spacecraft sub-systems
and qualification.

Photonic crystals can also be used for optical data communication.

Research is required in three-dimensional crystals that will open up new
possibilities for optical data communication, potentially leading to purely
optical circuits. However, significant basic research is required for photonic
transistors before they can be put to practical use.16 Photonic crystals are
expected to be used in optical satellite communication.

For space applications, high precision processing is essential for

components such as those used in optical satellite communication or for
earth observation and astronomy. High costs of manufacturing equipment

and low throughput rates, is a limiting factor for such applications. X-ray
mirrors (composed of a thin single mirror and mirror foil with a nested
design) play an important role in astronomy. Further research and
development is required in the ultra precision finishing of surface figuring
of coil substrates of X-ray mirrors (Zweck & Luther, 2003).

c. Data Storage for spacecraft

Nanotechnology enabled solutions for data storage systems under

consideration are based on thermo mechanical, optical or holographic
principles. The millipede memory being developed by IBM is a micro
mechanical device that reads, writes and erases data using the scanning
probe technique. The features of this technology are the low voltage
consumption, high storage capacity (1 Terabit / sq in) with application in
mobile devices and space. Basic research is being undertaken to prove the
feasibility of the concept. Another area that has been highlighted for
further research is the use of 3 dimensional arrays of quantum dots in
optical data memory (Zweck & Luther, 2003).

Ferroelectric RAM (FRAM) and Magneto electronic RAM (MRAM) are

nanotechnology enabled memory chips that are non-volatile and are being
considered as replacements for DRAM. MRAM uses the principle of
magneto electronics and is also considered as a replacement for CMOS
based memory. However, further demonstration of this is required. FRAM
can retain data for over 10 years, but material fatigue is a considerable
disadvantage. Though FRAMs are commercially manufactured and used in
Smart Cards, further research and development is necessary if the
technology is to be applied in space. The advantage over DRAM is a
reduced time lag and energy dissipation. MRAM is considered better than
other non-volatile memories (EEPROM, Flash and FRAM) for aerospace
applications due to its low energy consumption, radiation resistance and
high temperature operating range. However, it still requires validation for
space applications. Silicon on insulator (SOI) and phase change memories
(PC RAM) are also considered as alternatives.

5.2.5 Sensors

Sensors play an essential role in monitoring the health of astronauts and

control systems of the spacecraft. Sensors are used to accomplish a wide
variety of functions in space. Nanomaterials are expected to enhance the
functionality of these sensors.

Gas sensors are used for detecting hydrogen leaks in rockets, measuring
oxygen in the upper atmosphere and monitoring air quality in manned
space flight. The different gas sensors used for space applications are
Schottky diodes based on silicon carbide, resistive sensors based on

polymer films and electrochemical sensors based on tin oxide. Further
research is required in integrating electrochemical sensors with CMOS
circuits. Research is also needed on nanopowders used as coatings on
sensors for improved sensitivity and robustness.

Schottky diodes are used for detecting hydrogen or hydrocarbons under

extreme conditions. The absorption of gas molecules on the surface of the
diode produces a change in the electrical conductivity. Research is
required in validating the use of Schottky diodes and increasing the
sensitivity. Space applications of sensors may have terrestrial
applications, especially in the automotive industry.

Sun sensors based on nanoporous silicon are expected to benefit from

nanomaterials research. Research is required in decreasing quantum
losses and improving quantum yields of the nanoporous silicon. Further
research is also required in integrating the sun sensors into spacecraft
such as satellites.

Infra-red (IR) sensors are used for satellite-based observation of the

earth, research of the atmosphere, astronomy, navigation and optical data
communication. Research is required in improvement of sensors based on
quantum wells, quantum wires and quantum dot nanostructures.
Quantum well IR sensors have been developed based on gallium arsenide
fabricated using molecular beam epitaxy. Research is required in realizing
these sensors for long wave infrared radiation.

NASA is working in collaboration with University of Michigan- Ann Harbor

to develop nanosensors based on nanoparticles that will monitor the effect
of radiation in space. One of the main problems faced on long flight-
manned mission is that of radiation from space. Although the spacecraft
shield will protect the craft, on 6 month long mission to mars the most
advanced heat shield will may not be able to protect the astronauts.
Therefore research is being undertaken to monitor, prevent and treat
these effects (AIAA, 2005).

5.2.6 Life support systems

NASA is researching bio-inspired, adaptable and self-healing systems for

extended missions. Bimolecular nanotechnology is another area in which
NASA is actively developing a biological-geological-chemical laboratory for
life detection and science. Research is also ongoing in the area of
nanoscale sensing, assessment and therapeutic delivery for medical

Nanotechnology may potentially offer solutions for supporting life

functions such as oxygen and nitrogen storage, pressure monitoring,
ventilation, reducing weight of heat exchangers by using nanomaterials,

waste water treatment using regenerative membranes, monitoring of
water quality by using electronic nose sensors, carbon dioxide removal,
hygiene, air cleaning and filtration, control of air quality and humidity.10
Further research is required in developing nanomaterials, by conducting
basic research in the above mentioned areas for space travel.

Areas which will be important (particularly for the planned long duration
manned spaceflights to other planets) are the development of sensors
capable of measuring physiological parameters such as bone density,
blood chemistry, disease or radiation load. This will also require more
effective lab-on-a-chip systems where both the measuring and analysis
unit are combined, and which allow the concurrent and rapid analysis of
different analytes.

Drug delivery, including autonomous self-medication, via several routes

(such as inhalation) is another important area of research for long-
duration space flights.

5.2.7 Nanomaterials and thin films for spacecraft

Nanomaterials and thin films have applications in various areas of space.

Nanostructured layer have applications in heat insulation of rockets. NASA
research has envisaged the creation of high strength to mass ratio
material that can be used for aerospace and space vehicles. Material
research is also required in materials with programmable optical, thermal,
mechanical and other properties. Research has also been envisaged for
embedded sensing to ensure reliability and safety.

Aerogels are made up of a highly porous three-dimensional network of

nanoparticles such as silicates. They have a high internal surface area and
low density, and have applications in electrode materials for capacitors or
batteries, and thermal isolation. Although they have been used in the
Mars Rover and NASA Stardust missions, they require further
development to improve characteristics such as brittleness and
mechanical stability (Zweck & Luther, 2003).

Solid films developed at a nanoscale are important for space as friction

and reducing layers. The tribological properties such as relative hardness,
fatigue resistance, type and strength of chemical bonds determine the
development of MEMS components. Intermediate layers such as
lubricants, coverage layers, and friction partners behave differently in high
vacuum space than terrestrial conditions (Zweck & Luther, 2003). Material
selection for solid lubricants and mechanical protection such as
chalcogenide, chalcogenide composites, carbides and nitrides as well as
carbon material are taken into consideration for research. Research is
needed in applications such as low friction and lubricant free bearings,
coolers for liquid hydrogen and thermal control layer for nanosatellites.

Thermal protection layers are used in the re-entry to act as heat shields
and for thermally insulating the rocket engines. The heat insulating layer
of rocket engines are required to be temperature stable, strain tolerant
and have high adhesion strength. Research is needed in manufacturing
processes such as pulse laser deposition that ensures high precision and

Other applications where thin film technology can be usefully applied are –
large telescopes, mirrors and antennas. Feasibility studies are required in
visionary applications such as solar sails for interplanetary spacecraft and
extremely light solar generators for solar powered satellites. Research is
also need in intelligent multi-functional structures that can be used for
active control.

5.2.8 Visionary Applications

Visionary applications are, at most, at the basic research stage, and

require several technological solutions before they can be reliably applied
in space.

a. Molecular Nanotechnology and electronics for space

NASA is aiming to develop structures and systems that can adapt, evolve,
heal and replicate in response to changes in the environment. Intelligent
sensing requires research in areas that combine novel material properties
such as optical, thermal and mechanical. Biomimetic material
development is required to realize enhanced functionalities such as self-
organization, self-healing and self-replication. An approach inspired by
bottom-up nanobiotechnology may provide a novel solution.

Artificial self-replicating systems are considered to be in their infancy, and

it is essential that they are developed with rigorous fail-safes to ensure
safe application. For example, a bio-inspired approach based on viruses
and bacteria could pose a hazard to human health. One of the main
challenges for the bio-inspired approach is the extreme environment of
space where there are high temperatures, high radiation, vacuum and
high pressures.

Organic molecules such as benzene have potential in future nanoelectronic

circuits, as they can act as building blocks. However, robust, molecular
connections are among the main problems to be solved before molecular
computing at femto second can become a reality. Problems in synthesizing
such molecules have also been reported. Finally, further research is
required to improve the level of current obtained from molecular
electronic devices (Globus, 1999).

b. Space Elevator

The Space Elevator is a novel concept that has been proposed to transport
mass into space from the earth using a cable or ribbon. However, such a
system would require research and development of an extremely high
strength-to-weight ratio material. Carbon nanotubes have been proposed
as a suitable material as they has the right strength to weight ratio.12 The
desired strength for a space elevator is 62 GPa with carbon nanotubes
having a stiffness (Youngs modulus = 1 TPa and tensile strength = 200
GPa). Research is further required in spinning of composite fibres (carbon
nanotube reinforced) that will be able to stand the extreme stresses of the
earths atmosphere, turbulence in weather, corrosion, and vibrations
created by the flowing winds. Among other solutions needed are tether
technology for the cable, a suitable propulsion technique (potentially
electromagnetic propulsion), and development of supporting infrastructure
before this concept can be turned into reality (NASA, 2000).

c. Nano and Pico satellites

Constellations and swarms of miniaturized satellites and probes have been

envisaged such as the nanosatellite (1- 10 kg), picosatellite (0.1- 1 kg)
and the satellite on a chip (less than 100g) concept. The increased
integration of nanotechnology is expected to lead towards satellite on a
chip. Nanotechnology can play an important role in reducing the weight,
size and power consumption of smaller satellites. Micromachined devices
can provide improved integration in propulsion, communication,
navigation and energy generation. Research is required in areas such as
high strength nanocomposite plastics and biomimetic structures to reduce
weight. Further development is required of smart components with built in
sensing capabilities and load monitoring. Research has to be achieved in
adaptive structures with skins for improved thermal control. There is also
a need for improved propellants such as those based on nano-dispersed
aluminium. One of the main research challenges for the constellation of
nanosatellites is the information systems that will require very high
processing speeds and nanoelectronics may be able to provide solutions.
Monitoring the health and safety of the constellation has been regarded as
another major challenge for such nanosatellite systems, and here
nanosensors can play a very important role (Johnson et al, 1999).
Nanotechnologies that have potential application in nanosatellites but
require further integration studies are sensors (magnetic, infrared and
solar) based on optical fibres or MEMS, and the development of dedicated
integrated circuits for communication systems (Torres et al, 1996). For
picosatellites technical breakthrough is required in areas such as micro-
fuel cells, micro-thrusters and nuclear-batteries (Simonis & Schilthuizen,

d. Gossamer Spacecraft

Gossamer Spacecraft have been envisaged to be very large, light and self-
unfolding with integrated subsystems. The development of such a light
and foldable structure requires an airframe inspired by nature and an
energy generation system such as those based on thin film solar cells.
Alternative fuel-less propulsion research needs be conducted in laser and
microwave propelled sails, such as that by NASA JPL (2000). Research
would also be required in thin film technology that can be used to develop
phased array antennas for communication, and in integrating other
equipment such as telescopes and mirrors for detecting planets outside
the solar system on unmanned missions (Zweck & Luther, 2003).

e. Space Solar Power

NASA and several academic institutions in the United States are

considering the development of a concept called “Space Solar Power” to
mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. The programme envisages the
deployment of large space solar power satellites in geosynchronous orbits
to potentially delivering 10-100 TW of energy to world markets. Energy
would be transferred by means of high power density microwave. To
realise this vision would require intensive research in multi-band gap solar
cells with high efficiency and low cost of production, and development of
solid state devices for wireless power transmission. Among other problems
that need to be solved are the development of optical concentrators,
radiation resistance thin film material, and the multi-functional integration
of sub-systems (Mankins, 2003). Such concepts are also beginning to be
considered in Europe and Japan. The high prohibitive cost of space
transportation, however, is a major barrier. The time frame of
implementation of this concept is estimated to be more than 25 years
(Zweck & Luther, 2003).

5.2.9 Conclusion

The research and development of nanotechnology applications has to be

based on the level of technology readiness and contribution to space
objectives. Other important criteria for assessing deployment are the
market potential for terrestrial applications, economic benefits of the
application and the potential barriers to the development. Considering the
high cost of the development of nanotechnology, the programmes must
be based on the economic value of the application to the space industry.
This is due to the fact that future applications in space are expected to be
high volume markets, as opposed to the current niche markets driven by
telecommunication and information services. Utilizing space infrastructure
for research and development is becoming an important issue. NASA is
encouraging the participation of private companies to conduct their
research through their financial investment in space. Increasing dialogue

between space and nanotechnology research communities is essential for
the continued development of nanotechnology applications for space. In
any event, such research and development is expected to take nearly a
decade before it is implemented in space crafts.

Chapter 6: Economic Aspects

6.1 Introduction
This chapter describes the economic impacts that the aerospace industry
has in the EU in particular, but also, because of its nature, globally. It
discusses the impacts on civilian aviation and space exploration, and the
strategies that are being developed by the various sectors to ensure
economic success, and the role that SMEs will play in this. It concludes
with a presentation of patents utilising nanotechnology that are applied to
the aerospace industry.
The European Commission (EC) has recognised the central importance of
the aerospace industry to innovation, prosperity and security, and in 2002
published a Strategic Aerospace Review for the 21st Century (STAR 21),
the result of the efforts of an advisory group with members from industry,
the EC and the EU parliament. The STAR 21 report recommends four
governing principles for Europe’s aerospace industry:
1. Aerospace is vital to meeting Europe’s objectives for economic
growth, security and quality of life. It is directly associated with, and
influenced by a broad range of European policies such as trade,
transport, environment and security and defence.
2. A strong, globally competitive industrial base is essential to provide
the necessary choices and options for Europe in its decisions as
regards its presence and influence on the world stage.
3. European aerospace must maintain a strong competitive position if it
is to play a full role as an industrial partner in the global aerospace
4. Europe must remain at the forefront of key technologies if it is to
have an innovative and competitive aerospace industry.
To ensure that the aerospace industry in the EU continues to succeed, the
report highlights the need for evaluating and harmonising competition
policies and tax incentives amongst member states, ensuring that
adequate training schemes are established (that also take account of
continued education and training), that worker mobility between Member
States is supported, and that long-term R&D goals are well defined. To
achieve these goals it recommends that combined public and private
funding for civil aeronautics in the EU should reach a total of €100 billion
by 2020.

6.2 Aviation
The aerospace industry is a significant contributor to economic wealth
worldwide. According to the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in
Europe (ACARE, 2004-1) the European air transport industry directly

contributed €220 billion to European GDP (or 2.6%) in 2004, and taking
into account ancillary business, an estimated 10% of GDP. Air transport
alone is estimated to account for approximately 18% of all international
trade. Furthermore, it is estimated that total employment within the
industry in Europe is some 3 million, and that this will increase to 5 to 7
million by 2020. In the US, the aerospace industry generated $170 billion
(€133 billion) in sales during 2005, with profits of $11 billion (€8.6
billion). (Napier, 2006)
The major manufacturers in the industry are Airbus in the EU and Boeing
in the US, with Airbus commanding slightly over half of the global market
share. The most important sites for the global civil aerospace industry are
Seattle (Boeing), Toulouse and Hamburg (both Airbus). However, other
important global players are located in Russia, Brazil, Canada, and
There are 6 manufacturers of civilian aircraft in Russia. As of April 2007
these are to be merged into one company by the Russian government.
The new company, United Aircraft Building Corporation (UABC), is being
established in an effort to streamline operations and improve the Russian
aviation industry’s global competitiveness (Russian Minister, 2006). The 6
individual companies are:
• Sukhoi- the largest Russian aircraft manufacturer (both military and
civil) with a reported 14% of global output of aircraft products (25%
for military aircraft). Civil aircraft orders are of the order of €780
million per annum (www.sukhoi.org/en).
• Irkut- primarily a military aircraft manufacturer, but with plans to
increase its percentage of civilian aircraft manufacturing from 13%
to 45% over the next 10 years. It had sales of €468 million in 2004
• Ilyushin- manufactures both military and civil aircraft
• Tupolev OKB- oldest Russian aeronautics company. Manufactures
both military and civil aircraft (www.tupolev.ru/English).
• A.S. Yakovlev- primarily involved in military aircraft design, but with
several small to medium size civilian aircraft (www.yak.ru/ENG).
• Mikuyan- manufacturer of the famous MiG fighter planes, but also
produces small civil aircraft (www.migavia.ru/eng).


The Brazilian company Embraer manufactures small to medium sized

passenger aircraft that are used by a number of global airlines. In 2005 it
had revenues of 3.68 billion USD (€2.87 billion). It has over 17,000
employees (www.embraer.com/english/content/home).


Bombardier Aerospace manufactures 3 families of small civilian jet

aircraft- Learjet, Challenger, and Global. It has a global workforce of
26,800 and profits in 2005 of 8.1 billion USD (€6.3 billion)


Antonov ASTC originally designed military aircraft for the former Soviet
Union (and famously the largest aircraft ever built: the An-225 Mriya
transport). However, since 1992 it has also manufactured small to
medium sized civilian aircraft (www.antonov.com/index.html).

6.2.1 Global markets in the aviation industry

According to the Airbus “Global Market Forecast 2004-2023” world
passenger traffic is expected to increase by 5.3% per annum over the
period 2004-2023. This increase in demand, combined with the need to
renew older aircraft, will require an estimated 16,601 new passenger
aircraft. Airbus forecasts that the number of passenger aircraft in service
will double from a fleet of 10,838 in 2003 to 21,759 in 2023. In monetary
terms this equates to some 1.9 trillion USD (€1.48 trillion). The market
share on a regional basis looks quite different, with Europe expected to
have the largest demand in terms of aircraft numbers, while operators in
the Asia-Pacific will focus more on large capacity aircraft (such as the
Airbus A380) and so will have the greater share of seat capacity. Typical
maximum life-spans for aircraft range from 37 years for small jets to 35
years for others. In many cases large passenger aircraft are “recycled” as
cargo aircraft before this point. Airbus forecasts that only 15% of today’s
passenger aircraft will still be in service with their current operators in
This buoyant mood is also felt by airlines within the EU. Despite
staggering net losses in the US market over the last 6 years (13 billion
USD in 2001, falling to an estimated 1.7 billion USD in 2006), EU airlines
have seen net profits of between 1 and 2 billion USD in the same period
(IATA). Although this loss in the US market is largely a result of
decreased passenger numbers in wake of September the 11th, one of the
other key issues is the relative cost of fuel to the airlines, contributing
26% to operating costs in 2005 (compared with 14% in 2003). Over the
next 17 years Europe is expected to retain its share of the market at 32%,
while the US is expected to fall from 33% to 26% and Asia-Pacific increase
from 25% to 31%.
Air cargo is also expected to expand over the next 17 years at a rate of
5.9% per annum. At present approximately 40% of exports by weight
from Asia to North America and Europe are delivered by air, however in
product value terms this is almost 75%. By 2023 it is expected that air

cargo from Asia to North America will be greater than Europe to North
America. One issue now is that packaging of such high-value goods takes
up relatively more of the cargo space, such that there is greater demand
for larger capacity aircraft.
What are the strategies that the industry sees as necessary to ensure
continued growth? Both efficiency and capacity increases are required.
The industry metric is revenue passenger kilometre (RPK), and it is
estimated that increased productivity across the industry will contribute
approximately 0.8% of the yearly growth in RPKs. The remainder will be
met by increasing passenger numbers through more aircraft, larger
aircraft, and increasing the frequency of flights.
Routes- there are two airline strategies in place for connecting
destinations: hub and point-to-point. Of the two, hub-based flight
patterns are the most economical and long-lived. This essentially means
linking major destinations together by larger aircraft, with passengers
connecting via these and flying on to their final destination by smaller
regional aircraft. In contrast, point-to-point flights link secondary or
tertiary cities, and offer greater convenience to passengers. The success
rates speak volumes: of 75 routes opened during the past twenty years
between a primary city in Asia and a primary city in Europe, almost 90%
have proved successful and are still in operation today. Conversely, of the
47 routes opened between secondary or tertiary cities, only 40% have
been lucrative enough to survive. Within different regions the
preponderance of the two types of strategy varies, with Europe favouring
point-to-point, intra-regional flights while Asia-Pacific has a larger demand
for hub flights. The future forecasts for world population growth indicate
that by 2020 16 cities worldwide will have more than 20 million
inhabitants (compared with 5 today). 10 of these cities will be in the Asia-
Pacific region, which will further increase the demand for hub flights and
underlines the need for larger aircraft to service this region.
Passengers- it has been determined from several independent surveys
that the most important issue to passengers is price rather than
convenience (as evidenced by the growth of low-cost airlines). This
favours hub based routing for the major airlines.
Aircraft size- there needs to be continued development of different
aircraft sizes: large aircraft for hub-based flights, smaller versatile aircraft
for point-to-point. It has been estimated that two-thirds of new aircraft
will be single aisle with between 100 and 210 seats (the size favoured by
the low cost airlines).
Regulation- new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions will have a
major impact on the air traffic industry. As part of its strategy, ACARE
has set goals of reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 50%,
reducing NOx emissions by 80% and decreasing noise pollution by 50%.
Air Traffic Management- improving the air traffic management systems
will allow shorter flight times (as a result of less time in holding patterns
on approach to airports) and less time spent taxiing or on stand. As a
result aircraft turnaround will be faster and passenger capacity will

Investment in R&D- the industry already has significant investment in
R&D (approximately 12% of turnover); however ACARE has recommended
that 65% more funding is required over the period to 2023 to ensure that
the projected growth in the industry is maintained. In contrast to other
sectors, the funding available in the EU from the private sector is
comparable to that in the US, while it is the public finance in aerospace
R&D that is lacking (25% that in the US). However, it is not only financial
investment that is required. There are issues in attracting sufficient
researchers, engineers and technologists into the industry, and policy
changes that will ensure that European companies retain their presence
within Europe and do not migrate to North America. To ensure that this is
achieved will require coordinated efforts by each member state and not
just the centralised EU administration.
ACARE has proposed a strategic research agenda (SRA) to meet these
• As with many technical sectors the aerospace industry is facing a
shortage of suitably qualified and experienced personnel. To
reverse this trend there needs to be continual assessment of
university curricula (aligning it more with the needs of the industry),
ensuring that standards are met and improving the mobility of
graduates. This will also require the enthusing of young people to
embark on a career in science, technology or engineering, and
strengthening links between the aerospace industry and higher
• Recognition that the industry also depends on the expertise and
service from tens of thousands of smaller, specialist companies.
What is lacking is a coherent map of these companies and their
expertise, and the means to coordinate their activities and those of
the larger players. In this regard there is also the need for the large
organisations in particular to move away from the “perpetuation of
self-interest”, and that companies must cooperate to maximise the
outcomes of the limited pool of finance and expertise within the EU
to achieve R&D goals.
• Policy changes at the European level that will improve European
research infrastructure, the supply chain, certification and
qualification, education and improving trans-European research. In
addition, it will be essential that new policies encourage business to
retain their centre of operations within the EU, and thus continue to
re-invest in the EU R&D market. This could be through “low
corporation tax rates, R&D tax credits, export credit guarantee
schemes, risk-sharing equity funds, and the level and quality of
publicly funded research.”
• Improved collaboration both within the EU and with other regions (in
particular the US) to ensure that R&D efforts are not duplicated.
This will require the establishment of cross-stakeholder groups to
identify the necessary research infrastructure, EU-wide coordination

activities (such as ERA net), continued support through the FPs,
establishment of networks centres of excellence. One mechanism
could be the development of roadmaps for the industry and the
establishment of a technology watch. ACARE sees collaboration in
two ways: context and commercial. While commercial collaboration
is unlikely to be achieved with the US, context collaboration, aimed
at “developing international standards that promote customer
service and confidence, or increase society acceptance”, is a more
achievable goal.
5 High Level Target Concepts (HLTC) are identified in the ACARE Vision
2020 report that will play a role in shaping the future of air transport: the
Highly Customer Oriented Air Transport System; the Highly Time Efficient
Air Transport System; the Highly Cost Efficient Air Transport System; the
Ultra Green Air Transport System; the Ultra Secure Air Transport System.
These are seen as “technology pools” which will each contribute to the
changing face of air transport over the coming decades. The drivers for
these changes will be external e.g. increased security threats, increased
air travel restriction as a result of environmental impact, etc.

6.3 Space
Despite a decline in the commercial market for space since 2000, space
exploration and exploitation is seen as a major goal for many different
nations, with an increase in public spending in the USA, Russia, China and
India. The leaders in space technologies at present are: the US, Russia,
EU, and China (although other countries such as Japan and India have
established Space Agencies and programmes).
In the EU, the European Space Agency (ESA) has set forth an ambitious
plan for development split into two areas: Mandatory Activities and
Optional Programmes (ESA, 2005). The Mandatory Activities have a
budget of €3.1 billion in the following areas in the period to 2010:
• The scientific programme (€2.1 billion) for basic R&D- covering
topics in the following areas “what are the conditions for life and
planetary formation?”, “how does the Solar System work?”, “what
are the fundamental laws of the Universe?”, “how did the Universe
originate and what is it made of?”
• The General Studies Programme (GSP) continues to develop basic
science, earth observation, launchers, telecommunication and
navigation, human spaceflight and exploration.
• The Technology Research Programme (TRP) looks at developing
cross-cutting technology developments, including those from outside
the space sector.
• The Technology Transfer Programme (TTP) focuses on
commercialising new technologies through the support of new start-
ups and the creation of “European Space Incubators” in ESA
• The Earthnet Programme- supports the Earth Observation
programme including the participation of Third countries.
• Education- development of space education offices to provide
support for young students and graduates.
The level of investment for the Optional Activities is even higher (€3.8
billion). The specific projects attracting funding are: Envelope programme,
ARTES programme, ISS Exploitation, ELIPS 2, ACEP (Ariane 5
Consolidation and Evolution Preparation), Ariane 5 ARTA, Vega VERTA,
CSG (Guyana Space Centre) Resolution. In addition, it has a budget of
€1.9 billion set aside for proposals for new activities in Earth Observation
Applications, Space Exploration, Telecommunications, and Launchers.
According to Dario Izzo of ESA’s Advanced Concepts Team (ACT), "the
future of space flight is in using new systems, new architectures and
exploring technologies to reinvent the design of space missions”. To
achieve this will require both “discovery and competitiveness”.
The Technology Transfer Programme has been very successful not only for
the aerospace industry but the wider economy. According to the ESA

(www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Technology_Transfer/SEMZ5TRMD6E_0.html), it
has resulted in:
• more than 200 successful transfers of space technologies to non-
space sectors;
• over €800 million cumulative turnover generated in both space and
non-space sectors;
• over 30 new companies established as a direct result of exploiting
• around 1500 jobs created yearly;
• more than €30 million attracted in venture capital and funding;
• a portfolio of over 450 active space technologies available for
transfer and licensing;
• some 15 start-ups within the European Space Incubator (ESI);
• some 36 incubators within the European Space Incubator Network
Examples of inventions that have applications in other industrial sectors
include: airbags, carbon brakes, navigation systems, vibration damping,
insulation, cooling systems and many more. Recently, Formula 1 has
utilised advanced technologies developed within the aerospace industry to
design lighter cars.
Galileo (a joint programme between the ESA and the EC) finally moved
towards becoming a reality with the launch of its first satellite (GIOVE-A)
on the 28th December 2005. In 2008 the ESA’s Columbus laboratory will
be launched to the International Space Station (ISS).
The primary commercial agency for fulfilling the EU’s space aspirations is
EADS SPACE, which employs over 11,000 people. EADS SPACE is a wholly
owned subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space
Company (EADS) and is the European authority on civil and military space
transportation and manned space activities. It designs, develops and
produces Ariane launchers, the Columbus laboratory and the ATV cargo
vessel for the International Space Station, atmospheric re-entry vehicles,
ballistic missiles for France’s nuclear deterrent force, propulsion systems
and space equipment. In 2004 it had revenues of €2.6 billion with an
order backlog of €11.3 billion. Another company within EADS SPACE,
Astrium, is responsible for the design and manufacture of satellite systems
for both civilian and military telecommunication and Earth observation
In the US even larger budgets are available: in 2004 NASA had a budget
of 16 billion USD, while the Department of Defence had 18.6 billion USD.
NASA is investing in commercial space transportation by opening up a
competitive tender for supply to the International Space Station (ISS).
Two industrial partners (Space Exploration Technologies [SpaceX] and
Rocketplane-Kistler [RpK]) will each share approximately 500 million USD
to achieve this goal, however the partners will only receive this money if

they are successful (payments will be made in stages based on achieving
targets). The US is focused on 2 priorities: space exploration (particularly
a manned mission to the moon, and then to Mars) and the use of space in
support of homeland security and defence.
Of all the countries involved in space exploration, Russia still remains the
one launching the greatest number of spacecraft. The Russian Federal
Space Agency is responsible for space science research, with a budget of
some €12.5 billion from 2006 to 2015 (Forbes, 2005). It plans to develop
a new re-usable spacecraft called Kliper (although a suitable contractor
has yet to be identified), two new launching pads, send missions to one of
the two moons orbiting Mars, and double the number of earth orbiting
satellites to 70. On 10 March 2006, Russia, the EU and ESA signed a
cooperation agreement on space, stimulating agreement between the
Russian GLONASS and the European Galileo satellite navigation systems.
The EU and Russia are also engaged in a dialogue on space cooperation,
including science and technology. The EU is also collaborating with Canada
and the USA on a bilateral basis and in the International Space Station.
China is one of only 3 countries to have put a person in space (in 2003
using the Shenzhou spacecraft) (China, 2006). The Chinese Space
Programme contracts most of its work to the state-owned China
Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), which has
registered capital of 1.1 billion USD (€860 m) and employs 110,000
people. China has plans to send unmanned and manned flights to the
moon, and is in negotiations with Russia over joint missions to the moon
and Mars. It is also looking to collaborate more closely with the EU after
the US blocked closer cooperation with the ISS (BBC).
Japan established its own space agency, JAXA (Japan Aerospace
Exploration Agency) on the 1st of October 2003 with the merger of 3
organisations: Japan's Institute of Space and Astronautic Science (or
ISAS), the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL), and Japan's
National Space Development Agency (NASDA). It aims to achieve a
leading global position in reliability and capability for both launch vehicles
and satellites, and has plans for human spaceflight and exploitation of the
moon. In the interim it has plans nearer to earth- to develop a supersonic
aircraft capable of flying at Mach 5 that would cut the flight time between
Japan and the US to a few hours. JAXA’s vision comes with large
investment, around 258-280 billion yen p.a. (€1.7-1.9 billion) over the
first 10 years of the strategy.
The Indian Space Research Organisation was established in 1972 and has
developed launch vehicles (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, and
Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) for its own use and those of
international customers, and satellite systems for telecommunications and
earth observation. It employs 20,000 people and has a budget of
approximately €550 million. India aims to put an astronaut in space by
2014 (a programme that is estimated to cost €1.7 billion, www.isro.org).
One of the major challenges to the EU space industry is the fact that in
the US over 75% of funding for R&D comes from the Department of
Defence and NASA (while in the EU it is 50%). Turnover in the EU is also

significantly lower than the US (€5 500 million compared with €33 700
million, 1999 figures). This inevitably puts EU industry at a competitive
disadvantage, and will require continued and concerted action at the EU
level. In this respect FP7 funding for space related R&D is €1.4 billion from
2007 to 2013, approximately a four-fold increase from FP6 (European
Commission FP7 fact sheet).

6.4 How can Nanotechnology Impact on these Strategies?

The aerospace industry is already making use of composite materials to
reduce the weight of structural components. In the future it is envisaged
that nanocomposites will offer not only enhancements in strength and
reduced weight but also added functionality, such as decreased ability to
form or retain ice (e.g. on aircraft wings). Nanomaterials in engine
components could also improve fuel efficiency, as well as delivering
alternative future propulsion systems. The impact will be on fuel economy,
pollution and noise pollution.
In space applications, nanotechnology is expected to impact on fuel and
energy systems, structural materials for launch vehicles (e.g. heat-
resistant coatings) and electronic sub-systems. As described above,
advances in nanotechnology with applications to these areas are expected
also to be spun-out into other industries.

6.4.1 Patenting of Nanotechnology Advances that have Applications in

the Aerospace Industry
A total of 62 patents were identified using the European Patent Office
(EPO) web portal (which also provides information on other patent
offices)16 using search criteria for nanotechnology with keywords related
to aerospace applications (see Figure 1). On closer inspection of each
patent’s abstract and description only 46 of these appear to be based on
nanotechnology applications. The distribution of these patents by search
term is shown in Figure 1 and by country in Figure 2. The title and
abstract for each patent is given in Table 1. In contrast, the worldwide
patent database contains approximately 28,172 entries for
“nanotechnology for information processing, storage and transmission”,
27,115 entries for “nanotechnology for materials and surfaces”, 10,960
entries for “nanotechnology for interacting, sensing or actuating”, 18,024
entries for “nano-optics”, and 16,090 for “nanomagnetics”, and more than
100,000 results for nanotechnology in total. It is likely, although not
explicitly stated, that many of these patents will have potential
applications in the aerospace industry.

See www.espacenet.com/access/index.en.htm

Numbers of Patents in the Nanotechnology Section using different key word searches









1 1 1


A Nanotechnology and aerospace E Nanotechnology and rocket

B Nanotechnology and aircraft F Nanotechnology and airplane
C Nanotechnology and satellite G Nanotechnology and aeronautic*
D Nanotechnology and spacecraft H Aircraft; aviation; cosmonautics and nano*

Figure 6.1. A-G: numbers of patents in the category “nanotechnology” using the search
terms: “aerospace”, “aircraft”, “satellite,” “spacecraft”, “rocket”, “airplane”,
“aeronautic*”. H: numbers of patents in the category Aircraft; aviation; cosmonautics
using the search term “nano*”. No results were returned for “nanotechnology” plus
“space exploration”, “extraterrestrial” or “aviation”, or “apparatus for, or methods of,
winning materials from extraterrestrial sources” and “nano*”. There were 5 duplicated
results between the searches giving a total of 46 patents.

The patent landscape for nanotechnology applications in aerospace is

dominated by the US (23 of the patents) followed by Germany (9 patents)
and France (6 patents) see Figure 2.

Global Nanotechnology Patents with Application to the Aerospace Industry

1 1 1
6 France
23 Sweden

Figure 6.2. Number of nanotechnology patents with applications in the aerospace

industry by country.

The patents fall into a number of different categories including: materials,

surface treatment and coatings, components for engines, batteries,
propellants, electronics.

Table 6.1. Nanotechnology patents listed through EPO website

(http://gb.espacenet.com/) with applications stated for the aerospace industry.
Patent Country Number of
times filed
Article comprising a fine-grained metallic material and a CA 1
polymeric material
Object identification using quantum dots fluorescence CA 1
allocated on Fraunhofer solar spectral lines
Method for preparing micro powder containing anti- CN 1
agglomerated nanometre silver, micro powder produced by
the method and its application
Epoxy resin having improved flexural impact strength and DE 1
elongation at rupture
Preparation of nano composites by organic modification of DE 1
nano filler useful as a paint, adhesive, casting composition, in
aircraft construction, electronics, automobile finishing, and as
a parquet flooring lacquer
Freshwater system in a commercial aircraft DE 1
Waterless vacuum toilet system for aircraft DE 1
Toilet system with reduced or eliminated flushing DE 1
requirement, especially for transportation vehicles
Body contacting media has surfaces with micrometric- or DE 2
nanometre structuring, adapted to the respective media
Cabin window arrangement for an aeroplane DE 1
Toilet system, particularly for vehicles DE 1

Surface treatment for aerospace applications, etc includes FR 1

changing surface roughness measured perpendicular and in

plane of surface before applying adhesive or decorative
Space and time modulator for X-ray beam FR 1
Process for producing organized powders by spraying from at FR 2
least two sets of particles, and organized powders thus
Metal/metalloid nitride/carbide ceramic powders prepared by FR 1
flash pyrolysis
Ammunition or ammunition part comprising a structural FR 1
element made of energetic material
Method to manufacture X ray mirrors with thin film multilayer IT 1
structures by replication technique
Magneto static wave device JP 1
Quantum wire structure JP 1
Carbon nano particles having novel structure and properties KR 1
Reactor for decomposition of ammonium dinitramide-based SE 1
liquid monopropellants and process for the decomposition
Reinforced foam covering for cryogenic fuel tanks US 1
Self-cleaning super hydrophobic surface US 1
Novel carbon nanotube lithium battery US 1
Electrically conductive polymeric foams and elastomers and US 2
methods of manufacture thereof
Systems and methods for modifying ice adhesion strength US 5
Dark field, photon tunnelling imaging probes US 1

Broadband light-emitting diode US 1

Aluminium matrix composite and method for making same US 1
Electromechanical memory cell US 1
ESD coatings for use with spacecraft US 2
Uncooled tunnelling infrared sensor US 1
Embedded nanotube array sensor and method of making a US 1
nanotube polymer composite
Transparent composite panel US 1
Magnetorheological nanocomposite elastomer for releasable US 1
attachment applications
Nanocomposite layered airfoil US 1
Oya computerized glider US 1

Spacecraft sculpted by solar beam and protected with US 1

diamond skin in space
Entries found using the search terms that contain no obvious
nanotechnology applications:
Patent Country Number of
times filed
Turbofan or turbojet arrangements for vehicles craft, aircraft and the ES 2
Improved lighting system lamp units used on airport taxi-ways, FR 1
takeoff and landing runways
Exposing process for electronic beam JP 1
Device and method for detection of aircraft wire hazard US 2
Dry cooled jet aircraft run-up noise suppression system US 1
Tilt-tester US 1
Method and apparatus to produce ions and nanodrops from taylor US 2
cones of volatile liquids at reduced pressures
Smart docking surface for space serviceable nano and micro satellites US 1
Power sphere nanosatellite US 1
Light shield for an illumination system US 1
Dual spectrum illumination system US 1
Method for producing extreme microgravity in extended volumes US 1
Nano-G research laboratory for a spacecraft US 1

6.5 Role of SMEs
As described above, SMEs are seen as a crucial component of the
aerospace industry as they provide both services and additional expertise
in R&D to that of the major corporations. Ensuring that SMEs can engage
effectively in R&D with each other and other organisations is therefore a
key element for the future success of the European aerospace industry.
AeroSME is one of the main instruments that have been set-up to aid the
involvement of SMEs in EU-funded projects in aerospace. It is a joint
activity between the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of
Europe (ASD) and the EC, and includes 32 countries: the 25 EU member
states, plus Bulgaria, Iceland, Israel, Norway, Romania, Switzerland, and
Turkey. On the website is a database of over 1000 SMEs which can be
searched by country, technology or keyword. Using “nano” as keyword
search term however identifies only two SMEs: Bekaert Dymonics NV
(www.bekaert.com/dymonics), which specialises in surface treatment
technologies and NanoCraft (www.nanocraft.de), which specialises in
coatings and material analysis and characterisation.
Other initiatives to support SMEs include:
European Communities Aeronautics REsearch+ (ECARE+) which is funded
under FP6 from 01.02.06 for 30 months. It both networks aeronautical
SMEs and allows prospective project coordinators to identify “research-
intensive SMEs”.
SCRATCH is another EU-funded project that supports SMEs in the
aeronautics industry to establish consortia and submit project proposals to
the EC.
The NAVOBS+ project which supports the participation of SMEs in R&D
projects in the field of Space infrastructures (e.g. satellites).

6.6 Conclusions
Europe is in a relatively strong position as regards its current market
share in aviation technologies. However, this is not the case for space
technologies, which are largely dominated by the US. Much of this can be
attributed to the high level of public funding for aerospace research in the
US (particularly for space) through the Department of Defence and NASA,
to maintain the stated US objective of “supremacy in aerospace”.
Furthermore, there is significant overlap in aerospace R&D for civil and
military purposes, which can further compound the competitive
disadvantage of EU industry, as certain technology developments in the
US are subject to restrictive trade agreements. Ultimately this means that
an EU manufacturer may not be able to include US technology if the final
product (e.g. aircraft or satellite) is sold to a country with which the US
has trade restrictions. In other cases, devices may be subject to
incorporation, or the final product validated, by the US manufacturer or

approved organization. In the absence of a comparable EU technology this
has the potential to severely restrict markets.
Through advances in nanotechnology it is expected that the aerospace
industry will be able to address issues of improved and novel propulsion
systems, and decreasing environmental impacts. Other applications
include communication and navigation. Advances in materials will be
through decreasing the weight required for structural components
(through increased strength, ductility, wear resistance, etc) thus reducing
fuel consumption, and increasing their functionality (e.g. engineering anti-
fouling surfaces). In the longer term, nanotechnology enabled systems
should provide novel energy production and storage, sensors and
electronics. To achieve this and to ensure that critical technologies will be
developed by EU R&D requires the ongoing support of large-scale
collaborative projects through the Framework Programmes. The
involvement of appropriate authorities such as ACARE and the ESA is
essential to ensure that this funding is targeted to the best projects to
achieve the long-term strategic goals.

Chapter 7: Environment, Health and Safety

7.1 Introduction

Applications of nanotechnology in the aeronautics and space sectors are

rather new in themselves. Therefore, little research has been done on
Environment, Health and Safety aspects of nanotechnology in aerospace;
EHS will be used as shorthand for the three fields.
On the one hand, the potential health and environmental risks of
engineered nanoscale materials for all applications constitute a great
concern for policy makers worldwide.17 In the USA, EU and its member
states and other countries, research strategies have been developed (e.g.
Maynard et al, 2006) and projects started in the last few years to assess
the toxicity of different kinds of nanomaterials and to develop exposure
scenarios for humans, animals and the environment. It is uncertain how
the size and surface to volume ratio of materials with particle sizes
between 1 and about 100 nm influence toxicity as compared to the bulk
materials. As demonstrated in earlier chapters, a considerable variety of
nanostructured materials and nanodevices are aimed at incorporation in
aeronautics and aerospace in the future.

In many cases, e.g. in polymer matrix composites, the nanoparticles will

be fixed in a matrix and potential health and environmental risks may be
mainly expected during production and in waste processing or recycling.
During normal use, such fixed nanoparticles may be released in the
environment due to wear (abrasion) or by accident. Most concern is
focused on free engineered nanoparticles which may be released in the
air, water or soil. For applications of nanomaterials in aerospace, airborne
nanoparticles in the cabin or released from the plane or spacecraft in the
air are likely to constitute the biggest potential hazards.
The aerospace production shop floor will be one of the first locations
affected by potential release. Nano workplace health & safety issues, in
most cases, will be addressed early on before shop floor production is
considered. With nano modified composites, a universal issue involves
standard shop floor processing (sanding, drilling, cutting, etc.).The
postulation that these abrading processes will not release free engineered
nanoparticles will be challenged. "Best practice" engineering controls and
PPE (personal protective equipment), as required, will certainly be applied.

At the Dec.2006 International Conference on Nanotechnology

Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety (NOEHS), Battelle

See e.g. Nanoforum, 2005 and click the button “safety and environment” on top of the
page www.nanoforum.org for an overview of recent developments and publications.

Toxicology Northwest presented results of a release comparison study of
simulated Boeing shop floor sanding a "control" composite versus a nano
modified composite. This exposure risk study was thought to be one of the
first to evaluate, under controlled conditions, the possibility of free
engineered nanoparticle release from standard shop floor processing. The
general debate about EHS aspects of engineered nanomaterials in the
workplace is also relevant to aerospace industry. A review of this debate
goes beyond the scope of the present report. Relevant news and
publications can be found elsewhere at the Nanoforum site or through
other media.

On the other hand, introducing nanomaterials or nanodevices such as

sensors into aeronautics can also bring environmental, health and safety
benefits. Environmental benefits include less use of energy and materials.
Health benefits can arise from incorporating nanosensors monitoring on
board air and water quality, filters for purifying air and water etc. Safety
may be improved by applying fire retardant nanomaterials, integrating
nanosensors networks in composite materials to monitor structural
integrity of the hull, remote sensing applications and other nanomaterials
and devices.

In this part of the report, we summarise the available literature and come
up with suggestions for further research. The focus is on response to
engineered nanoscale materials explicitly intended for application in the
aeronautics or space sectors.

7.2 EHS risks

Environment, Health and Safety aspects of nanomaterials in different

applications including aerospace applications were the topic of a Delphi
study carried out in the AC/UNU Millennium project (Glenn and Gordon,
2005). Aerospace applications which may lead to EHS impacts in 2005-
2010 include the following18:

Application: Potential EHS impact:

Nanoparticles in fuel as additives Inhalation by staff but also by the
population in general

Source: AC/UNU Millennium project : « Environmental and Health Hazards resulting
from military uses of nanotechnology, round 2 : www.acunu.org/millennium/nanotech-

Nanoparticles as surface coverage Erosion of these nanoparticles make
to make it harder, smoother, them inhalable by staff but also by
stealthy the general population
Nanopollution in the environment
and contamination of the
environment (vegetables, fruits
etc), humans and animals. The
contamination can also infect
drinkable water and fish

Boeing (2005) expects future nanotechnology applications in aeronautics

and aerospace in 10-15 years and considers now a good time to
investigate Environment, Health and Safety implications. The EHS risk
potential of nanotechnology applied in aeronautics outlined by Boeing
reflects the general global nanosafety research agenda. Boeing is
represented by their Environmental Assurance group on the ASTM
International Subcommittee E56.03 responsible for Nanotechnology
Environmental & Occupational Health & Safety.

Boeing Phantom Works and several subcontractors are working on a

composite recycling project for carbon fibre composites from aircraft since
2003. These composites do not contain nanomaterials, but a similar
recycling process could perhaps eventually be found useful for carbon
nanotube composites. Carbon fibre composites have been applied in
aircraft since the early 1990s, but were not recycled due to a lack of a
market for the scrap materials. Since the late 1990s, such markets were
identified and it became interesting for Boeing to develop recycling
schemes. (Boeing, 2005)

Nanostructured metals have been applied in aerospace since the 1990s,

first in landing gear components. Lux Research (2006) does not see
indications of any EHS issues with nanostructured metals, because only
the grain size of crystals inside a metal matrix is of nanodimensions. The
life cycle should be assessed to be sure.
Lux Research and a toxicology consultant are offering an EHS audit
service aiming to raise awareness among nanotech start ups and other
companies of these issues. An aerospace and defence company was the
first to be audited. (Thayer, 2006)

The general research agenda for EHS aspects of engineered nanomaterials

is also applicable to applications in aerospace. Industrial sectors such as
Aerospace and Automotive have articulated similar needs as the Chemical
industry on “joint nanotechnology research needs which would enable the
correlation and prediction of nanostructure and properties from synthetic
conditions.” (Garner, 2006)

7.2.1 Health risks
Health impacts of nanomaterials are the most pressing concern in
spacecraft, because astronauts can spend months inside a spacecraft,
whereas pilots, cabin staff and passengers don’t spend more than some
hours at a time in a commercial aircraft.
Studies have shown that modifying the surface of nanomaterials with
surfactants or biocompatible polymers (e.g., polyethylene glycol) reduces
the toxicity in vitro (Derfus et al., 2004) and alters the half-life and tissue
deposition in vivo (Ballou et al., 2004). These findings indicate there may
be many ways to reduce the health risk for astronauts who are expected
to spend considerable lengths of time in a spacecraft. The magnitude of
the protective response is generally proportional to the magnitude,
complexity, and duration of exposure. The last factor is the main source of
chronic adverse health effects.

In general, the need for specific studies on the human response to

nanomaterials highlights another research challenge: the limited
availability of well-characterized material in sufficient quantity.
Consequently, most current research is performed in vitro, not in vivo,
and assesses acute exposure, not chronic exposure. Development of new
test methods to evaluate novel behaviour of nanomaterials in vivo, and
new in vitro tests may be necessary to predict novel in vivo behaviour.
Standardized dosing protocols have yet to be established.
Modifications of the surface of nanomaterials can alter biochemical
reactivity and should be reflected in calculations of absorbed and effective
dose. Any surface modification has the potential to strongly influence the
material’s reactivity.

7.2.2 Safety risks

Potential risks may in the long term occur due to more futuristic
applications of nanotechnology in aerospace such as accidents with the
proposed space elevator, satellites or other objects in earth orbits which
may fall out of orbit or collide with each other in space. In the past,
accidents caused by re-entry of satellites have been reported occasionally.

7.3 Environmental benefits

Applications of nanotechnology in aerospace are expected to lead to

potential benefits for the environment. These benefits include reduced fuel
consumption, more environmentally sound coatings and on-board
environmental control sensors.

Piotr Tucholka (2002) presented some “Major challenges for

environmental studies”, including the need for global monitoring of
environmental conditions and better understanding and calibration of

space based observations and their relation to parameters of the objects.
He believed “nano- and micro technologies are well-suited to provide
significant improvements in these applications. Several already existing
applications, like those used in petroleum well monitoring are adapted or
adaptable to environmental problems…”

Light and strong nanomaterials (e.g. polymer nanocomposites) may be

applied to produce lighter aircraft, along with other materials such as
carbon-fibre reinforced plastics or alumina-based materials. (Mulcair,
2003) This may help reduce aircraft fuel consumption. However, this
potential environmental benefit may be limited by rebound effects, e.g. if
the lighter planes, in turn, carry a heavier load of passengers and cargo.
(Ellen et al, 2005)

Boeing (2005) foresees EHS benefits due to applications of

nanotechnology, including waste and air emissions reductions. “Dave
Whelan, (at that time) Boeing Phantom Works General Manager,
commented he believes that it will make possible: ‘Specialised coatings so
that planes don’t need repainting’. Also, the use of POSS (polyhedral
oligomeric silsesquioxanes) may result in zero volatile organic compound
(VOC) coating development.” Other advantages mentioned are not specific
for the aerospace sector.

The Canadian government is investing $3.4 million in development of new

nanotechnology based coatings for aerospace, advancing more
environmentally sound technologies. The company Integran will develop
nanocrystalline cobalt-phosphorous coatings and deposition process
technologies as an environmentally friendly alternative for the current
hard chrome plating process used for coating landing gear and jet engine
components. (CCN Matthews, 2005) Airbus is also interested in
nanotechnology for enhancing the environmental friendliness of their
airframes. No details are disclosed. (Woelcken et al, 2006)

An important aspect is the environmental control. Spacecraft have closed-

loop environments with the ability to reclaim air and wastewater.
Environmental sensors distributed throughout the ship keep track of
contaminants in the air and water (Meyyappan, Dastoors, 2006).

Some other beneficial applications have already been mentioned in earlier

chapters such as alternative energy sources for aircraft and spacecraft,
lower energy consumption due to nano-surface treatment for
environmental benefits.

7.4 Health benefits

Health benefits can occur if nanomaterials can replace toxic materials

currently applied in aerospace, or in the form of life support systems in
spacecraft and possibly also aircraft.

The ultimate vision for nanotechnology in astronaut health management is

to provide a quality of medical care regardless of the duration of the space
mission. Scientists at Michigan University Ann Arbor’s Centre for Biologic
Nanotechnology are developing nanosensors for monitoring the health
impact of space radiation on astronauts. These sensors incorporate
dendrimers. (Flinn, 2005) Katrin and Harald Kneipp of Harvard University
have proposed nanosensors for astronaut health monitoring based on
surface enhanced Raman scattering (Kneipp & Kneipp; also Kneipp et al,

7.5 Safety benefits

Nanomaterials and devices are expected to enhance the safety of aircraft

and spacecraft. Especially on commercial aircraft, nanosensors and smart
materials can improve safety for the people on board considerably.

Safety of people on board can profit from application of vibration and

flame resistant nanomaterials and nanosensor networks embedded in
composite materials. Safety of people on the ground and the environment
can profit from improved disaster management by earth observation and
satellite communication.

Embedded micro and nanosensors for measuring structural integrity can

be included in future generation aircraft structural components. Solutions
include cantilever-based MEMS (Waitz, 2006) and other MNT-based
sensors (Blue Road Research, 2006). Carbon nanotubes embedded in
composites can be used as an artificial nervous system. The nanotubes
make up only 0.15% of the material and are evenly distributed through
the composite. By running an electrical current through the web of
nanotubes, micro cracks in the material can be detected. (Thostenson,

7.6 EHS Regulation

Regulating Environment, Health and Safety aspects of nanomaterials and

nanodevices for aerospace applications will have to be part of the existing
legislative framework for the aeronautics and space sectors. The existing
relevant European Union policies and legislative framework is summarised

The European Commission has reviewed and updated its Transport policy
mid 2006. The EU aims to be a world leader in sustainable transport
solutions. The aviation industry is consolidating at European level. EU
innovation policy under FP7 includes the greening of air transport, safety
and security in transport, intelligent transport systems and engine
technology providing increased fuel efficiency and promoting the use of
alternative fuels. Air transport accounts for 9% of EU oil consumption. The
EC aims to reduce this dependence on oil supplies through innovative
energy efficiency and alternative energy solutions. “Although airlines have
reduced fuel consumption by 1-2% per passenger-kilometre in the last
decade and noise emission from aircraft has declined significantly, the
overall environmental impact of civil aviation has increased due to
buoyant growth in traffic… greenhouse gas emissions from air transport
have grown by over 4% per year in the last decade.” (EC, 2006, p 8)

The EU is a major world player in air transport equipment. The EC wants

to reduce environmental impacts whilst maintaining the competitiveness
of the sector, by innovation, making engines more efficient. A broad set of
common safety standards is enforced with the help of the European
aviation agency EASA.

On 19 October 2006, the EC has presented an Action Plan on energy

efficiency. It includes strategies to stimulate higher energy efficiency of
aviation through the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management
Research project (SESAR, 2007-2012) and proposing legislation to include
the aviation sector in the EU Emission Trading Scheme (end of 2006). This
action plan builds upon the EC Communication on Climate Change and
Aviation (2005) including proposals to give research into ‘greener’
technology the highest priority in FP7 and working in ICAO on developing
more stringent technical design standards to reduce aircraft emissions at
the source. The EC is in favour of developing green aircraft according to
the thematic strategy on air pollution (EC, 2005).
Currently, “aeronautical products should be subject to certification to
verify that they meet essential airworthiness and environmental protection
requirements relating to civil aviation… in line with standards set by the
Chicago Convention”.
“In order to respond to increasing concerns over the health and welfare of
passengers during flights, it is necessary to develop aircraft designs which
better protect the safety and health of passengers.” (EC regulation

In 2006, too little is probably known about the impacts of nanotechnology

to determine if current regulations are sufficient. This is the general
situation, and will likely apply also to aerospace. In the Dutch standards
committee dealing with nanotechnology, no representatives of aerospace
participate. There is currently no formal cooperation between the two ISO
committees ISO/TC 229 for nanotechnologies and ISO/TC 20 for

aerospace. When the first nano-norms appear, these are likely to be
applied also to individual sectors including aerospace. The discussion
about nanotechnology is starting in aerospace norms and standard setting
circles. It is not yet clear if there will be a need for nanospecific norms.
The European debate takes place in ECSS, and Dutch companies are
involved in it. (Source Ivo van der Werff, NEN, personal communication,
October 2006).

In the EU funded NANOTOX–project, health and safety related to

nanomaterials for applications in all sectors including aerospace are
framed.19 This implies the following:
“Standards, legislation, ethical issues, policies and codes of practice, at
international and European level, which have been put in place or are
under development, will be assessed and reviewed. Their implications and
effectiveness will be discussed. Ways in which existing legislation is
applied to the macroscale counterparts of nanoparticles will also be
examined. Guidelines and recommendations for the institution of future
European standards, legislation, ethics, policies, and codes of practise, for
the safe production and use of nanoparticles will be produced.” “All
potential impacts revealed by this Specific Support Action (SSA) will be
documented in the final report and disseminated via the specialised web
pages on the NANOFORUM web site.” The project aims “to survey
national, international and European standards, legislation, ethical issues,
policies and codes of practice.”

7.7 Conclusion

To conclude, the discussion and investigation of EHS risks and benefits of

engineered nanomaterials and nanodevices in aerospace is barely getting
off the ground. There is a need for identifying the main possible concerns
and opportunities.
Potential specific EHS risks of nanotechnology applied in aerospace must
be addressed in toxicology research and the development of specific
exposure scenarios for the aeronautics and space sectors. Current
research agenda’s for risk assessment of engineered nanomaterials
intended for application in aerospace are relevant. These are currently
focused on general toxicology and exposure scenarios in the workplace
and exposure of the environment and the human body. There seems to be
a need for complementing these plans with additional life cycle analysis of
the materials intended for use in aerospace applications. Exposure

This project runs from 1 February 2005 until 31 January 2007, results
will be published at http://www.impart-

scenarios due to release of engineered nanomaterials in the air at high
altitudes and in the cabin environment are also needed.

To obtain the optimal environment, health and safety benefits of

nanotechnology in aerospace, scenarios must be developed and used to
decide on research priorities and regulation. Relevant regulations should
not be limited to airworthiness criteria, but also promote the use of Best
Available (environmental) Techniques under the Integrated Pollution
Prevention and Control policy of the EU. Communication between parties
involved in standardisation of the aerospace sector and of nanotechnology
also needs improvement, e.g. between the relevant ISO Technical

The novelty of nanoscale materials arises from the fact that with the size
decrease the properties of the materials change, which, however, may be
accompanied by increased environmental, health and safety risks. Safe
usage of engineered nanomaterials in aerospace requires employing strict
control on atmospheric nanoparticle release from aircraft in the
atmosphere because the nanoparticles could easily be distributed widely
over the Earth’s surface. Whether international regulations could ever
prevent potential future disasters is problematic. Development of
instruments and methods for nanomaterials characterisation considered
crucial for testing impacts on environment, health and safety is urgently
needed. This is true for all applications of engineered nanoscale materials
including aerospace and is being addressed worldwide.

Specific for aerospace applications, exposure scenarios of astronauts,

pilots, cabin personnel and passengers must be developed, as well as life
cycle assessments of the nanomaterials applied in aircraft and spacecraft
to identify possible environmental exposure scenarios. The public
acceptance of some EHS aspects of nanotechnology in aerospace may be
ambivalent. For example, a lighter weight aircraft might be admired for its
lower fuel consumption but it could also be considered a potential risk
source if its nano modified materials should in any way release free
engineered nanoparticles.

Chapter 8: Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects

8.1 Introduction

Society and new technologies mutually influence each other’s

development, as has been demonstrated in many case studies in the field
of Science, Technology & Society (STS). Nanotechnology is one of the first
emerging technologies where policy makers and researchers have initiated
a deliberately constructed, large scale systematic research programme on
Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects or Implications of a new science and
technology area in an unprecedented early phase of development.20

In this chapter, we will not review all the literature on ethical, legal and
social aspects of nanotechnology in general, but focus on the relevant
issues and regulatory framework for nanotechnology applications in
aeronautics and especially outer space. Most of the issues and discussions
are likely to focus on outer space, since space travel and commercial uses
of outer space in satellites, space tourism and other activities are more
recent than large-scale air travel and transport. Issues like the use of
outer space and ownership claims are still not regulated and the potential
risks of human activities and the deployment of human-made technologies
in outer space are highly uncertain and not addressed in any systematic

The development and eventual uptake of aerospace applications of

nanotechnology is influenced on the one hand by the parallel development
of the regulatory framework for the space and also the air transport
sectors in general as these nanomaterials and devices will have to
conform to these more general regulations. In the aeronautic sector, most
developments focus on reducing the environmental burden of air travel
and on improving on-board safety and health, as discussed in chapter 7.

On the other hand, nanotechnology will change current practices and

norms and values governing the air transport and space sectors, because
they can enable activities which were not possible or too expensive
before. E.g. microsystems and nanotechnologies can enable small
satellites, which can be used on a larger scale for earth monitoring, or
autonomous systems for exploring other planets. Or nanotechnology may
enable better life support systems in space stations and spacecraft,
stimulating longer astronauts’ missions.

See Nanoforum (2005) or click the button “More” followed by “Society Issues” on top
of the webpage www.nanoforum.org for an overview of relevant developments and

In this chapter, we first review current developments in European and
international regulations governing the space sector which are relevant for
nanotechnology. Then we review some early literature exploring potential
ethical, legal and social implications of nanotechnology applied in outer
space and aeronautics. We conclude with some suggestions for further

8.2 Regulations

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s

(UNESCO) World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and
Technology is working on an international instrument on the ethics of
outer space. In general, UNESCO proposes to incorporate ethical
guidelines in the existing framework of UN outer space treaties and
declarations. The treaties are:
- The 1967 treaty on principles governing the activities of states in
the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and
other celestial bodies (outer space treaty),
- The 1968 treaty on return and rescue of astronauts,
- The 1972 convention on international liability for space damages,
- The 1975 convention on registration of space objects,
- The 1979 agreement about the moon and other celestial bodies.
The UN assembly declarations cover the following aspects:
- legal principles (1963),
- satellite TV (1982),
- remote sensing (1986),
- use of nuclear devices (1992),
- International cooperation (1996). (UNESCO, 2004, p 12)
Some of these treaties are limiting arms and military uses of outer space.
See also Detlev Wolter (2006).

UNESCO highlights some new issues which need to be discussed in

a) Motivation and interest of space conquest,
b) Interest of manned flights,
c) How to decide on ethical questions regarding outer space:
i) Nuclear power in space,
ii) limits of outer space,
iii) Arbitrage between confidentiality and collective security (related
to info-ethics),
iv) Determination of the status of data (e.g. the rights of observed
countries vs. property),
d) Risks of abuse of dominant position by space actors,
e) Responsibility in case of catastrophe.21

See UNESCO website: http://portal.unesco.org/shs/en/ev.php-

The European Union (EU) is developing a European Space Policy. The
European Commission has published a Communication on European Space
Policy – Preliminary Elements in May 2005 (European Commission, 2005).
The aim is to develop a strategy for space technology development
coordinating the activities of the EU, European Space Agency (ESA) and
EU Member states as well as other countries including Russia, the United
States (US), China and Israel. They are also developing a regulatory and
institutional framework, in which the current principles of governance in
space can evolve, the strategic benefits of space can be recognised and
ESA can be maintained as Europe’s pole of excellence. The communication
envisages at least five scenarios for developing a legal framework and
recommends assessing all of them. The scenarios deal with who should
take the lead in managing and funding regulations and space activities,
the roles of EU, ESA, member states, national space agencies and other

The EU space policy includes international collaborations including

“aspects of international trade ‘fair competition’ and market access
through the regulatory environment (WTO, export controls, licensing,
allocations of frequencies and orbital slots within the International
Telecommunications Union).”22

The EU is coordinating a common European – United Nations position on

the political, legal and technological components of space affairs.23

The US President established the White House’ new National Space Policy
on 31 August 2006. They declare the conduct of US space programs and
activities a top priority, guided by a number of principles, which seem to
imply that the US reserves the right to protect their own national security
in space, while denying adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to
the US national interests. At the same time they will oppose the
development of new legal regimes, other restrictions or arms control
agreements restricting US activities.

As part of the strategy they do intend to encourage international

cooperation with foreign nations and/or consortia on space activities that
are of mutual benefit and that further the peaceful exploration and use of
space as well as US national interests.

The policy includes effective export policies, implying that technologies

which are or will soon be available on the world market can be exported
freely, but that “export of sensitive or advanced technical data, systems,
technologies and components, shall be approved only rarely, on a case-
by-case basis. These items include systems engineering and systems
integration capabilities and techniques or enabling components or

See: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/space/themes/inter_cooperation_en.html
See: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/space/themes/inter_cooperation_en.html

technologies with capabilities significantly better than those achievable by
current or near-term foreign systems.” (US White House, 2006)
Among the goals of expert control policies for sensitive goods is to block
or slow down access to militarily relevant equipment. The EU is party to
many such arrangements.

René Oosterlinck (2006), ESA director of external relations, explained

developments in space law. The current legislation is ambiguous on
several aspects including mineral exploration on asteroids and intellectual
property rights for research in space, such as in the International Space
Station. Also who is responsible for space debris is not settled. He pleads
for a review.

The current developments of international and national space policies as

described above are of course on the table of the politicians and are not
easily influenced by researchers working on nanotechnology. Researchers
do exert some influence on policy makers, in particular concerning
extrapolations into the future, guiding visions, etc. Researchers must be
aware of their responsibility. On the other hand, these political
developments determine the boundaries in between which the researchers
have to do their work on developing nanotechnology for applications in
aerospace, as demonstrated by recent discussions at the CANEUS 2006
conference in Toulouse, France.

During this conference, a short course has been held on “International

Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) – Intergovernmental agreements, Flight
Opportunities, Standards, export policy restrictions, Environmental,
Safety.” The main focus was on US expert restrictions on defence related
technologies as applicable to Microsystems and Nanotechnologies for

The Strategic Research Agenda of the European Space Technology

Platform (ESTP, 2006, p 37) also mentions these ITAR restrictions, which
apply to satellite technology and all electronic and other space
components or subassemblies. This is the case since 1999, when the US
Congress transferred responsibility for satellite technology from the
Commerce department to the State Department. About 60% of the
electronic components and equipment needed for a typical satellite are
imported from the US, 5% from other countries and 35% are made in the
EU. The EU has since developed a strategy of “non-dependence”: having
unrestricted access to any required space technology from European or
other suppliers. ESA has started a European Components Initiative in
2004, aiming to reduce substantially the dependence on components
subject to US export restrictions. ESTP proposes to continue this ECI and
develop similar “buy European” programmes for other critical space
components, while maintaining the quality of the European technologies.
During the abovementioned CANEUS 2006 conference an NPS industry
working group was installed, which aims for standardisation of small

satellites. The first meeting has been in Montreal, 25 October 2006.
(Caneus, 2006)

8.3 Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects

Most Ethical, Legal and Social issues are related to outer space, as
opposed to air travel and terrestrial policies. The international community
is currently in the process of developing ethical declarations, treaties and
legislation to govern human activities in outer space as has been reviewed
above. The more detailed discussion of how the uptake of nanotechnology
in aerospace may lead to new ethical, legal and social issues is reviewed
below. These issues can be divided in two groups:
1) Implications for privacy, security and safety of humans and our
earthly society and environment;
2) Ethical implications of applications of nanotechnology in planetary
and outer space exploration, e.g. in the case of sending out
autonomous “thinking” systems to other planets and who is
responsible for what they do there, carrying out risky experiments in
outer space or attempts at terraforming other planets.
The first group is a more immediate concern, because the earth
observation and communication satellites are already there, and
nanotechnology can only be a factor in making them smaller, cheaper and
increasing their use. These implications should be viewed in the context of
decades. How we structure nanotechnology related outer space use today
will influence development for decades. The second group is a very long
term concern, but nevertheless discussed already by proponents as well
as opponents. We show progress in the discussion by briefly summarising
relevant literature in chronological order.

Societal implications of nanotechnologies and studies needed are outlined

in section 6.5 on “Social, Ethical and Legal Implications of
Nanotechnology” of the US National Science Foundation (NSF) report on
Societal implications of nanotechnology (Roco & Bainbridge, 2001).24
Richard H. Smith includes several positive opportunities of nanotechnology
for outer space exploration, including reduction of the payload to energy
ratio which may enable new missions, using other planets as quarantined
nanotechnology test beds, and considering terraforming other planets.

UNESCO mentions Nanotechnology explicitly as a bioethical issue in its

work on the ethics of outer space: “Specific bioethical issues may be
raised by experiences in outer space, starting with the question of the
adaptation of humankind to outer space. There is also largely an issue of
risk, and the determination of the possibility of contamination either of or


from outer space. The compatibility of life science experiments in outer
space and their return to Earth should also be studied. This issue is also
linked to the ethical concerns raised by nanotechnology”. (UNESCO, 2004,
p 10-11)

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Grand

Challenges for nanotechnology in Aerospace are:
- Autonomous “thinking” spacecraft
- Safe, affordable aviation
- Human exploration and colonisation of outer space
- Evolution of Universe and Life (NASA, 2006)
One can imagine that the potential development of autonomous “thinking”
spacecraft invokes ethical concerns. The debate about ethical aspects of
human enhancement, human-machine interactions and artificial life is in
general emerging.

Jürgen Altmann (2006) proposes preventive arms control on

nanotechnologies which may be used for military applications. There is a
need for a comprehensive ban on space weapons. This has been
demanded nearly unanimously by all recent UN General Assemblies.
He includes explicitly civil nanotechnology developments in aviation
(aeronautics). “In aviation, much of military as well as civilian R&D takes
place in the same institutions and firms, with knowledge flowing in both
directions.” He proposes to prevent misuse of civilian R&D for military
purposes by strong verification rights, allowing independent inspectors to
control compliance on site. “With respect to Nanotechnology, this might
apply to small satellites; a significant number could be allowed for civil
Earth monitoring or space research if subject to intensive licensing and
inspection procedures while military satellites would be strictly limited.”
(Altmann, 2006, p 132) “Small and/or more autonomous satellites, if used
for anti-satellite attack, would counteract the general ban on space
weapons that the international community has striven for since decades.”
(Altmann, 2006, p 136) He warns for two military uses of swarms of small
satellites: observation and detection of targets on earth guiding attacks,
or attacks to other satellites in orbit. (Altmann, 2006, p 139-140)

Altmann (2006, p 167) foresees the deployment of mini- or micro robots

for exploration of the moon, planets and asteroids. If “swarms of
centimetre size flying or crawling robots for moon and planet
investigation” were developed, “cheap production of hundreds or
thousands could lead to diffusion to uses on earth”. He proposes a
“general prohibition of small mobile (partly) artificial systems below a
certain size limit (0.2 to 0.5 metres) in all media, in the military and the
civilian sector.” “Exceptions should be strictly defined and narrowly limited
… they could concern exploration of celestial bodies.” He proposes
technical limitations and licensing procedures to prevent misuse.

Security measures are inherently ambiguous. While carried out in the
interest of one’s own security, it often decreases the security of others,
leading to arms races and decreased stability (security dilemma). The way
out of this dilemma is agreed international limitation with verification of

Patrick Lin (2006) explores potential ethical issues of space exploration.

He predicts that applications of nanotechnology in space may enable such
a new colonialism and land-grab, such that these developments should be
regulated from the start to avoid conflicts related to fundamental property
rights, administration and security. Even though he mentions
nanotechnology, the argumentation is more general space ethics,
including the rationale to explore space in the first place.

8.4 Conclusion

Current developments in international and national politics and

negotiations on international treaties and declarations are in progress in
small parts of especially the space sector. These developments are only to
a limited extent influenced by nanotechnology, but the development and
uptake of nanotechnology in aerospace is fenced in and guided by these
global political developments. Researchers in nanotechnology for
aerospace are forced to take these boundary conditions into account in
planning their research and in selecting partners in other countries.

The uptake of nanotechnology in outer space is in the short time likely to

strengthen the urgency of existing ethical concerns such as privacy,
security and safety of people and the environment on earth, as
miniaturisation will lead to cheaper and more abundant satellites orbiting
earth. In the long term nanotechnology may lead to new ethical concerns
caused by new human initiated activities on other planets or even outside
our solar system. The debate on such longer term but not unprecedented
developments is barely emerging.

We propose some suggestions for further research:

- Current and proposed projects on Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects

of science or on Ethics of Science focusing on nanotechnology and
on aerospace (aeronautics as well as outer space) should be further
reviewed to explore issues in the boundary area between them
which are currently overlooked. Such additional research should not
distinguish between military and civilian research as this distinction
does not really exist in the aerospace sector.25 Subsequently, new

The Nanoforum contract precludes covering military activities; therefore we had to
make this distinction in the present report.

research projects should be initiated which focus on newly identified
issues of major concern to society.
- An inventory of regulations on aeronautics should also be prepared
in addition to the list of outer space treaties. A main new topic for
nanotechnology use in air traffic could be crewless aircraft. These
are becoming available first in military, and later in civilian air
traffic. Mini- and micro-aircraft are becoming available for military
uses, but may also be appropriated by terrorists in the longer term.
- Educational programs at schools and universities are needed which
combine nanosciences, nanotechnologies, aerospace applications
and social, legal and ethical aspects. Two types of programmes
should be developed. The first type of programmes should educate
the nanotechnology and aerospace workforce. The second type of
outreach activities should enhance public awareness of the potential
benefits and risks of nanoscience and technology including those
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