A Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) researcher is taking solar sailing to the next level.
He proposes replacing reflective metallic sails with diffractive metafilm sails. The new materials could be used to steer reflected or transmitted photons for near-Earth, interplanetary and interstellar space travel.
Grover Swartzlander is leading an exploratory study supported by phase one funding from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program. The nine-month, $125,000 award encourages development of visionary technology with potential to revolutionize future space exploration.
At the same time, Swatzlander also mentions that, “Diffractive sails may also be designed for laser-based propulsion, a decades-old concept that has recently attracted significant interest from private investors, resulting in a program called Breakthrough Starshot.”