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Sander Olson Interviews

David Vivancos

CONDUCTED JANUARY 2006


David Vivancos is a science and technology entrepreneur, theoretician, and researcher. In 2005, he founded NanoEspacio, with the goal of using nanotechnology to massively reduce the cost of space access. NanoEspacio is focused on establishing relationships with the main nanotechnology manufacturers for distribution and technology licensing for the European and Spanish markets.
 

Question 1: Tell us about yourself. What is your background, and what current projects are you working on?

 My background is divided between science, technology, and entrepreneurship. I have been involved in business about new technologies since 1997. In 1995, I gave the first lecture in Spain about the Java programming language. Anyone can know a bit more about me, through my web site at www.vivancos.com. Currently Iím focused on developing NanoEspacio, a company dealing with nanotechnology and space. 

Question 2:  You have just formed a company, called NanoEspacio. What is the aim of this company?

NanoEspacio started at the beginning of 2005, and the focus of the company is to be a reference in nanotechnology applications for space exploration, as well as a consultant in nanotechnology for other industries. We are also providing virtual reality and artificial intelligence solutions, and there is further information about these endeavors at www.nanoespacio.com

Question 3: You have done research on "New Ways of Aerospace Propulsion Using Nanotechnology.Ē What are the results of this research?

Currently our line of research is trying to conceptually create a new way of reaching space, mainly through the use of nanotechnology. We havenít yet published any results, but the first step of this research will finish at the end of 2006.

Question 4:  One of the main goals of NanoEspacio is to reduce the cost of space access to $12 per pound put in low earth orbit (LEO). Given that it currently costs thousands of dollars for each pound delivered to orbit, is your goal truly feasible?

This is a long-term goal, and there are many steps that need to be taken in order to achieve that goal. But this objective is totally feasible even with todayís technology. Itís a matter of will, and the nations involved providing sufficient investment. Our approach is to look further for new methods and concepts, with less need of huge initial investments.

Question 5: It would seem that materials embedded with carbon nanotubes would have substantially higher strength-to-weight ratios than conventional alloys. Have you done any research into embedding nanotubes into aluminum or titanium alloys?

The short-term goal of nanotechnology is to use nanopowders or nanocoatings to improve any material or composite performance. The long-term goal of nanotechnology is to build from the atom scale, or even to be able to build large structures, for example made by nanotubes. NanoEspacio as a consultant in nanotechnology uses nanopowders to improve performance of many systems.

Question 6: Spacecraft and satellite payloads consist largely of electronics. Has NanoEspacio done any research on using molecular electronics or nanoelectronics to reduce payload weight? 

Not directly, we are not involved in molecular electronics. But a key accomplishment in nanotechnology for space electronics will be to develop some kind of coating to provide actual commercial off the shelf (COTS) hardware with sufficient radiation and environmental tolerance to be employed in space. It will literally boost the use of high power electronics in space.

Question 7: Has NanoEspacio done any research on nanosensors in spacecraft? 

Not at this moment. The space industry is highly conservative in using new technologies in space. The actual technology readiness level (TRL) is a huge barrier of nearly 10 years, between the development of a technology and its deployment in space. Now there are many MEMS sensors and actuators, being sent to space, especially in the new micro and nano satellites.

Question 8: You recently attended the International Congress of Nanotechnology (ICNT05) in San Francisco. What is that conference, and what topics were discussed during the proceedings?

The International Association of Nanotechnology is a non-profit professional association to foster research and business collaboration worldwide for the benefits of society. In November 2005, I had the pleasure of attending the ICNT05, and being the Chairman of the Symposium on Nanomaterials and the Chairman of the Roundtable on Nanotechnology for Space. I gave a lecture about the Roadmap of Nanotechnologies for Space Exploration, covering these topics:

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The history of both Nanotechnology and Space

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The actual status of each field

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The different applications of Nanotechnology for:
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Space Launch

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Space Structures & Materials

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Space Propulsion & Power

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Space Guidance & Navigation

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Space Electronics & Communications

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Space Science Instruments

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Space Life Support

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And the road map for the next 50 years.

More information on the ICNT05 can be found at: http://www.nanotechcongress.com/

Question 9: What is the Spanish Government's attitude towards nanotechnology? Are they funding nanotechnology research programs?

At the moment, the investment from the Spanish government in nanotechnology is poor and mainly aimed at universities or big research centers. The other type of possible investment comes from the European Framework Programs. At the moment, NanoEspacio is only privately funded by me.

Question 10: What about private nanotechnology investment? Are "angel investors" funding nanotechnology startups in Spain?

Not yet, there is no real culture of angel investors in Spain at this time, at least in the nanotechnology scenario. But it will probably change in the next decade.

Question 11:  Aerospace enthusiasts have long dreamed of Single-Stage-To-Orbit (SSTO) vehicles to enable inexpensive access to space. Could nanotechnology make designing and maintaining such a craft feasible?

Sure, it is possible and will be a reality with or without nanotechnology. The problem of having that type of space ship is a matter of will and determination to develop and implement the right technologies. Nanotechnology could speed up SSTO development, and even in some aspects be the key enabler technology. If we talk for example of rockets, you could boost the performance of propellants and the supporting structures, reducing the weight and improving the efficiency of the systems.

Question 12: How much progress do you anticipate in the aerospace field in the next decade? How much of that progress will be dependant on nanotechnology?

In the next decade, the number of private human space flights will surpass the number of big government flights. The new players like China will also provide many surprises in the aerospace field, and by the end of the next decade, humans will be on the Moon again. Due to the TRL issues, nanotechnology will probably not be widely used in space exploration until the end of the next decade.
 

This interview was conducted by Sander Olson. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of CRN.
 

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