Space Shuttle to Launch Northwestern Pofessor’s Work

April 29, 2011

When the space shuttle Endeavour takes its final flight it will carry the handiwork of a Chicago-area scientist.

The shuttle will carry six postage-stamp sized samples of thin films made from specially engineered materials called grapheme and carbon nanotubes. Astronauts will mount them on the International Space Station, where they'll stay for at least six months.

The idea is to see how the nanomaterials hold up to the powerful radiation in space, which can cook normal materials, like silicon, used in computers. Northwestern University professor Mark Hersam, who created the samples, said the stakes are high for electronics in space.

"If you had a system on your spacecraft being controlled by a computer and all the sudden it didn't compute correctly, that would lead to serious problems," Hersam said.

The Endeavour was set to blast off Friday afternoon in what was expected to be the second-to-last shuttle flight for NASA, but the flight's take off was put was hold due to a technical problem.

(Photo courtesy of Andrew Campbell/Northwestern University)

Story source: AP

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