Graphene: the Ultimate Interstellar Solar Sail Material?


G. L. Matloff (2012), JBIS65, 378-381

Refcode: 2012.65.378
Keywords: Solar sailing, Graphene, Interstellar travel

Graphene (a carbon molecular monolayer) is a wonder material of great interest to materials researchers. Its molecular-layer thickness, finite fractional absorption, high melting point, and impermeability to gases coupled with the fact that doped materials, additives and multiple layers increase both fractional absorption and reflectivity indicates that it may be a superior material for application in solar-photon sailing. This paper first reviews relevant graphene physical and optical properties and then investigates the kinematics of interstellar solar sails constructed using this material. Two sail configurations are considered: thin-film probes and hollow-bodies sails. It is shown that graphene sail performance may be superior to that of beryllium sails. Less intense perihelion passes and accelerations may allow transit times to Alpha Centauri approximating a millennium. Future research should consider the interaction of graphene sails with the space environment and large-scale fabrication techniques.