Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Queen's chemists work with NASA to develop liquids for lunar telescope

11.07.2007
Chemists at Queen's University Belfast are working with NASA and scientists in Canada and the United States to design a telescope that can be stationed on the Moon.

The instrument will have a mirror consisting of a liquid with a thin metal film on its surface that rotates to form a bowl shape, known as a parabola. When the liquid spins in a perfect parabola, it will be able to reflect infrared light from distant stars and galaxies that cannot be picked up by telescopes on Earth because of atmospheric interference and light pollution.

Telescopes with parabolic liquid mirrors are much cheaper and easier to make and maintain than conventional telescopes with glass mirrors. Liquid mirror telescopes employed in observatories on Earth traditionally use mercury as the reflective liquid. However, mercury cannot be used for a lunar liquid mirror telescope as the high-vacuum conditions on the Moon would cause the mercury to boil.

The Queen's team has been investigating the possibility of preparing a reflective liquid for the telescope consisting of an ionic liquid that can be coated on its surface with a thin layer of a reflective metal.

Ionic liquids are liquid salts. They consist essentially of ions (electrically-charged atoms or groups of atoms). Ionic liquids generally have negligible vapour pressures which mean that they do not boil, even under vacuum. Many ionic liquids do not freeze at the sub-zero temperatures found on the Moon. They have the added advantage that they are much lighter than mercury - a key consideration for transporting a telescope to the Moon.

In a report in the June 21 issue of the science journal Nature, the Belfast, Canadian, and U.S. scientists showed that a commercially-available ionic liquid can be coated with silver and that the coated fluid is stable over several months.

"The discovery that an ionic liquid can be coated with a very thin metal layer is a major breakthrough," said chemistry professor, Ken Seddon, who is one of the authors of the report and Director of Queen's University Ionic Liquids Laboratories (QUILL).

The authors also reported that the ionic liquid does not evaporate in a vacuum and remains liquid at temperatures down to 175 K (-98oC). The lunar liquid mirror telescope, however, will require a liquid with an even lower melting point.

Fortunately, there is a phenomenal choice of ionic liquids. More than 1,500 have been described in the scientific literature over the past ten years or so and about 500 are available commercially. According to Seddon, around one million simple ionic liquids are theoretically possible and they can be designed for a wide variety of applications. But most have yet to be prepared.

"We now plan to design and prepare ionic liquids with melting points of around 100 K that can be coated with a reflective metal for the lunar telescope" said Assistant Director of QUILL, Maggel Deetlefs.

Lisa Mitchell | alfa
Further information:
http://www.qub.ac.uk

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht NASA mission surfs through waves in space to understand space weather
25.07.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht A new level of magnetic saturation
25.07.2017 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA mission surfs through waves in space to understand space weather

25.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Strength of tectonic plates may explain shape of the Tibetan Plateau, study finds

25.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

The dense vessel network regulates formation of thrombocytes in the bone marrow

25.07.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>