Carbon nanotube-based memory devices developed by Lockheed Martin and Nantero have been successfully tested on the STS-125 shuttle mission to the Hubble space telescope.

Nasa had incorporated the non-volatile RAM (NRAM) devices into special autonomous testing configurations into the aft end of the STS-125 payload bay.

Carbon nanotubes are tiny cylindrical carbon molecules, one-50,000th the diameter of a human hair that possess unique electrical and structural properties.

Carbon nanotubes have half the density of aluminum, 50 times stronger than steel, thermally stable in vacuum up to nearly 3,000°C, efficient conductors of heat and may be either metallic or direct bandgap semiconductors.

The experiment offers a proof-of-concept that enabled the testing of launch and re-entry survivability, and basic functionality of the carbon nanotube switches on orbit during the mission through early prototype parts.

Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Centre vice-president and general manager Jim Ryder said this demonstration of carbon nanotube-based semiconductor devices in the rigorous conditions of space is an important step towards a whole new suite of future applications.

The success also paves the way for development of high-density, non-volatile, carbon nanotube-based memories for spaceflight applications, and Lockheed and NASA are working on plans for future NRAM flights.

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Nantero is a nanotechnology company using carbon nanotubes for the development of next-generation semiconductor devices with a major focus on NRAM.