Home > Press > NASA Nanotechnology Space Sensor Test Successful in Orbit
NASA recently tested the first nanotechnology-based electronic device to fly in space. The test showed that the "nanosensor" could monitor trace gases inside a spaceship. This technology could lead to smaller, more capable environmental monitors and smoke detectors in future crew habitats.
NASA Nanotechnology Space Sensor Test Successful in Orbit
MOFFETT FIELD, CA | Posted on June 18th, 2007
NASA's Nano ChemSensor Unit hitched a ride to Earth orbit on March 9, 2007, as a secondary payload experiment on the U.S. Naval Academy's MidSTAR-1 satellite. The sensor test was powered on May 24.
"The nanosensor worked successfully in space," said Jing Li, a scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. Li is the principal investigator for the test. "We demonstrated that nanosensors can survive in space conditions and the extreme vibrations and gravity change that occur during launch," she said.
On long missions in space, harmful chemical contaminants may build up gradually in the crew's air supply. Nanosensors will be able to detect minute amounts of these contaminants and alert the crew that there may be a problem.
The goal of the experiment was to prove that nanosensors, made of tiny carbon nanotubes coated with sensing materials, could withstand the rigors of space flight. Li's experiment also helped scientists learn how well a nanosensor could endure microgravity, heat and cosmic radiation in space.
Scientists use a specific sensing material for each chemical they wish to detect. When a trace chemical touches the sensing material, it can trigger a chemical reaction that causes electric current flowing through the sensor to increase or decrease.
To conduct the sensor test in space, nitrogen gas containing 20 parts per million of nitrogen dioxide was injected into a small chamber. The chamber also held a computer test chip with 32 nanosensors. The test measured the change in electricity passing through the nanosensors after the nitrogen dioxide and the sensing materials made contact.
The change was similar to the effect fluctuating electrical current has on a light bulb. Changes in the bulb's brightness correspond to the number of chemical molecules detected.
Less than a half-inch across, the test chip with its 32 nanosensors is smaller and less costly than other analytical instruments that could be used for the same measurements. Other advantages of nanosensors include low power use and durability.
Scientists have developed chemical sensors using carbon nanotubes and other nanostructures to detect ammonia, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen peroxide, hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds and other gases.
Funding for the experiment included support from NASA's Exploration Technology Development Program. For more information about NASA's exploration mission, visit:
For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:
NASA's mission is to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research.
To do that, thousands of people have been working around the world -- and off of it -- for more than 45 years, trying to answer some basic questions. What's out there in space? How do we get there? What will we find? What can we learn there, or learn just by trying to get there, that will make life better here on Earth?
For more information, please click here
Beth Dickey/Melissa Mathews
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Copyright © NASA
If you have a comment, please Contact
Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.
Scientists build thinnest-possible LEDs to be stronger, more energy efficient March 10th, 2014
Two-dimensional material shows promise for optoelectronics: Team creates LEDs, photovoltaic cells, and light detectors using novel 1-molecule-thick material March 10th, 2014
Carbon Nanotubes Market by Type (SWCNTS & MWCNTS), Application (Electronics, Chemicals, Energy, Medical, Composites, Aerospace & more) & Geography - Global Trends & Forecasts To 2018 March 9th, 2014
Toxicity of Commonly-Used Nanoparticles on Human Body Studied in Iran March 9th, 2014
Colored diamonds are a superconductor’s best friend March 6th, 2014
New Data Model Boosts Space Science March 6th, 2014
Carbodeon NanoDiamonds PTFE Coating doubles surface durability and reduces friction by up to 66 percent: New surface coating enables cost-effective CO2 and fuel reductions in machinery March 6th, 2014
The Universitat Politècnica de Valencia coordinates a European project that will improve data communications performance March 3rd, 2014