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Versatile spaceborne photonics with chalcogenide phase-change materials

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Julian, Matthew 
Bombara, David 


Recent growth in space systems has seen increasing capabilities packed into smaller and lighter Earth observation and deep space mission spacecraft. Phase-change materials (PCMs) are nonvolatile, reconfigurable, fast-switching, and have recently shown a high degree of space radiation tolerance, thereby making them an attractive materials platform for spaceborne photonics applications. They promise robust, lightweight, and energy-efficient reconfigurable optical systems whose functions can be dynamically defined on-demand and on-orbit to deliver enhanced science or mission support in harsh environments on lean power budgets. This comment aims to discuss the recent advances in rapidly growing PCM research and its potential to transition from conventional terrestrial optoelectronics materials platforms to versatile spaceborne photonic materials platforms for current and next-generation space and science missions. Materials International Space Station Experiment-14 (MISSE-14) mission-flown PCMs outside of the International Space Station (ISS) and key results and NASA examples are highlighted to provide strong evidence of the applicability of spaceborne photonics.


Acknowledgements: The authors are grateful to Mr. Stephen Borg at NASA Langley Research Center/LaRC for his helpful technical discussions.


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npj Microgravity

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Nature Publishing Group UK