Space exemplifies the ultimate test-bed environment for any materials technology. The harsh conditions of space, with extreme temperature changes, lack of gravity and atmosphere, intense solar and cosmic radiation, and mechanical stresses of launch and deployment, represent a multifaceted set of challenges. The materials we engineer must not only meet these challenges, but they need to do so while keeping overall mass to a minimum and guaranteeing performance over long periods of time with no opportunity for repair. Nanophotonic materials-materials that embody structural variations on a scale comparable to the wavelength of light-offer opportunities for addressing some of these difficulties. Here, we examine how advances in nanophotonics and nanofabrication are enabling ultrathin and lightweight structures with unparalleled ability to shape light-matter interactions over a broad electromagnetic spectrum. From solar panels that can be fabricated in space to applications of light for propulsion, the next generation of lightweight and multifunctional photonic materials stands to both impact existing technologies and pave the way for new space technologies.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
O.I. acknowledges support from the 3M Foundation and the Minnesota Robotics Institute.
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