Canatu and ESA sign contract for the development of a fully carbon nanotube based optical filter for x-ray astronomy


Canatu (Vantaa, Finland) and the European Space Agency (ESA) have signed a contract to develop an optical blocking filter using a unique carbon nanotube (CNT)-based support structure and investigate its applicability for the ATHENA (Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics) telescope.

The optical blocking filter is designed to let x-rays pass through whilst blocking out other wavelengths, enabling precise imaging of celestial objects. Such filters are extremely fragile, so they are typically provided with a metal mesh support. During the 9-month project, Canatu will develop a fully CNT-based x-ray filter with a totally new CNT support structure providing higher transmittance at x-ray compared to metal mesh. In this project, the company collaborates with Ametek Finland and the University of Palermo (UNIPA). Canatu is a leader in advanced CNT focused on highly engineered solutions.

This collaboration builds upon an earlier project on optical filter development, signifying the ESA’s trust in Canatu’s technology and ability to create transformative solutions for the most demanding applications.

“We look forward to our continued collaboration with ESA on this exciting new project,“ says Ilkka Varjos, CTO of Canatu. “Our unique expertise is to adapt Canatu CNT network structures for different contexts and uses. A fully CNT-based optical filter is a prime example of an application where advanced Canatu CNT can have a transformative impact. This project gives our platform technology yet another opportunity to demonstrate its versatility, reliability, and feasibility in x-ray astronomy and EUV alike.”

“Canatu CNT has significant potential for a variety of new applications in the fields of x-ray astronomy and beyond due to its extremely high x-ray transmittance, robustness to pressure differentials, and chemical inertness. For this reason, a new activity has been financed to verify these qualities in x-ray astronomy and demonstrate the technology’s readiness for a space application,” adds Alessandra Ciapponi, optoelectronic engineer of the European Space Agency

To evaluate the effective capability of the optical filter to block UV/VIS/IR radiation, while providing high X-ray transmittance and being strong enough to withstand the severe launch stresses, the samples will undergo rigorous testing including vibration tests, X-ray transmittance tests, and radio frequency (RF) absorption measurements.

The ATHENA mission centres around studying the hot and energetic processes in the universe. Its overarching purpose is to answer to key questions in astrophysics about how galactic clusters and galaxies are formed, as well as how black holes grow and shape their surroundings. The ATHENA launch is planned for 2033.

Caption: Canatu partners with forerunners for breakthroughs in X-ray astronomy (photo: Canatu)

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