AI and Simulation Helping Create Low Cost Nanochip Sails for Fast Space Exploration

Category Technology

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Dr. Norte is making nanochip sails that can be propelled to 20% the speed of light propelled by a 100 Gigawatt laser array. The Starshot Breakthrough Initiative is making this possible through AI and simulation techniques to make these sails larger and at cheaper costs. The sails also have the potential to send nanochips to planets very quickly such as Mars in 32 hours, Saturn in 11 days, and Neptune in 70 days.

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Dr. Norte describes the state of the art for Starchip Nanosails. The Starshot Breakthrough initiative has been funding a 4 by 4 meters sail that weighs one gram. This will be propelled by a 100 Gigawatt laser array to travel at 20% of lightspeed to Alpha Centauri. He has made 4.5 centimeter by 4.5 Centimeters mirror like sail prototypes. These are made with an array of nanoscale holes which enable a mirror like surface with lightweight material. This was made for $25,000.

The Starshot Breakthrough Initiative has made a massive array of lasers that can produce up to 100 Gigawatts of power to fire at the nanosails

They are using AI and simulation to explore changing the nature and geometry of the holes so that far cheaper methods can be used to get the desired results. There is a lot of progress. They are also exploring how to get to far larger sizes.

He gives an example of the semiconductor industry getting to larger and larger sized wafers over the last few decades.

Making the sails bigger and lower cost seems to be very doable and progress is being made.

The holes on the sail make it almost mirror like and reflective, allowing it to be propelled by light from the laser array

He also describes how these nanochip sails could be used for low cost but very fast exploration of the solar system. We could send nanochips to Mars in 32 hours or even less and out to Saturn in 11 days and Neptune in 70 days.

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