Nanotechnology capability survey

The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded Teddington, Middlesex-based National Physical Laboratory a contract to lead a consortium that will conduct a survey of Europe’s nanotechnology capabilities.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has appointed the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) to survey nanotechnology capabilities in Europe.

According to a statement, NPL’s nanomaterials group will lead a consortium to identify the next generation of so-called nano and smart materials that will be used in future space missions.

Laurie Winkless, higher research scientist in the nanomaterials group at NPL and principal author of the survey, said: ‘Advances in nanotechnology are crucial to Europe’s space programme.

‘The weight of spacecraft is a key factor in the overall cost of any space mission. If we can identify better, lighter and more efficient materials and the best ways of using them, it may have a huge impact on the space programme.’

The NPL-led consortium will help the ESA to identify nanomaterials companies with potential to contribute to the future of satellite navigation and earth observation. Furthermore, it will define how these materials can add value to real space applications. High-quality and thoroughly tested smart materials will play a much greater role in future applications.

The NPL will be joined in the consortium by space consultancy ESYS and the Institute of Nanotechnology. The consortium’s report is due in August 2009 and will allow the ESA to review potential applications of nanomaterials for space applications and missions and quantify the resulting improvements.