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      Dynamically stable radiation pressure propulsion of flexible lightsails for interstellar exploration

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          Abstract

          Meter-scale, submicron-thick lightsail spacecraft, propelled to relativistic velocities via photon pressure using high-power density laser radiation, offer a potentially new route to space exploration within and beyond the solar system, posing substantial challenges for materials science and engineering. We analyze the structural and photonic design of flexible lightsails by developing a mesh-based multiphysics simulator based on linear elastic theory. We observe spin-stabilized flexible lightsail shapes and designs that are immune to shape collapse during acceleration and exhibit beam-riding stability despite deformations caused by photon pressure and thermal expansion. Excitingly, nanophotonic lightsails based on planar silicon nitride membranes patterned with suitable optical metagratings exhibit both mechanically and dynamically stable propulsion along the pump laser axis. These advances suggest that laser-driven acceleration of membrane-like lightsails to the relativistic speeds needed to access interstellar distances is conceptually feasible, and that their fabrication could be achieved by scaling up modern microfabrication technology.

          Abstract

          Ultrathin laser-driven lightsails represent a unique vision for interstellar space exploration. Here, the authors show how spinning flexible membranes can be both shape- and trajectory-stable with multiphysics structural and nanophotonic engineering.

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          Stretching and breaking of ultrathin MoS2.

          We report on measurements of the stiffness and breaking strength of monolayer MoS(2), a new semiconducting analogue of graphene. Single and bilayer MoS(2) is exfoliated from bulk and transferred to a substrate containing an array of microfabricated circular holes. The resulting suspended, free-standing membranes are deformed and eventually broken using an atomic force microscope. We find that the in-plane stiffness of monolayer MoS(2) is 180 ± 60 Nm(-1), corresponding to an effective Young's modulus of 270 ± 100 GPa, which is comparable to that of steel. Breaking occurs at an effective strain between 6 and 11% with the average breaking strength of 15 ± 3 Nm(-1) (23 GPa). The strength of strongest monolayer membranes is 11% of its Young's modulus, corresponding to the upper theoretical limit which indicates that the material can be highly crystalline and almost defect-free. Our results show that monolayer MoS(2) could be suitable for a variety of applications such as reinforcing elements in composites and for fabrication of flexible electronic devices.
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            Ultralight metallic microlattices.

            Ultralight (<10 milligrams per cubic centimeter) cellular materials are desirable for thermal insulation; battery electrodes; catalyst supports; and acoustic, vibration, or shock energy damping. We present ultralight materials based on periodic hollow-tube microlattices. These materials are fabricated by starting with a template formed by self-propagating photopolymer waveguide prototyping, coating the template by electroless nickel plating, and subsequently etching away the template. The resulting metallic microlattices exhibit densities ρ ≥ 0.9 milligram per cubic centimeter, complete recovery after compression exceeding 50% strain, and energy absorption similar to elastomers. Young's modulus E scales with density as E ~ ρ(2), in contrast to the E ~ ρ(3) scaling observed for ultralight aerogels and carbon nanotube foams with stochastic architecture. We attribute these properties to structural hierarchy at the nanometer, micrometer, and millimeter scales.
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              A Jupiter-mass companion to a solar-type star

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                haa@caltech.edu
                Journal
                Nat Commun
                Nat Commun
                Nature Communications
                Nature Publishing Group UK (London )
                2041-1723
                17 May 2024
                17 May 2024
                2024
                : 15
                : 4203
                Affiliations
                Thomas J. Watson Laboratory of Applied Physics, California Institute of Technology, ( https://ror.org/05dxps055) Pasadena, CA 91125 USA
                Author information
                http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3591-7209
                http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6249-2827
                http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9435-0201
                Article
                47476
                10.1038/s41467-024-47476-1
                11101440
                38760349
                bddee03c-bb50-4baa-8e08-fdd2affb2749
                © The Author(s) 2024

                Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                History
                : 1 March 2023
                : 2 April 2024
                Funding
                Funded by: FundRef https://doi.org/10.13039/100000181, United States Department of Defense | United States Air Force | AFMC | Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AF Office of Scientific Research);
                Award ID: FA2386-18-1-4095
                Award ID: FA2386-18-1-4095
                Award ID: FA2386-18-1-4095
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: Breakthrough Foundation
                Categories
                Article
                Custom metadata
                © Springer Nature Limited 2024

                Uncategorized
                metamaterials,astronomical optics
                Uncategorized
                metamaterials, astronomical optics

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