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Title: Multiscale Photonic Emissivity Engineering for Relativistic Lightsail Thermal Regulation
The Breakthrough Starshot Initiative aims to send a gram-scale probe to our nearest extrasolar neighbors using a laser-accelerated lightsail traveling at relativistic speeds. Thermal management is a key lightsail design objective because of the intense laser powers required but has generally been considered secondary to accelerative performance. Here, we demonstrate nanophotonic photonic crystal slab reflectors composed of 2H-phase molybdenum disulfide and crystalline silicon nitride, highlight the inverse relationship between the thermal band extinction coefficient and the lightsail’s maximum temperature, and examine the trade-off between minimizing acceleration distance and setting realistic sail thermal limits, ultimately realizing a thermally endurable acceleration minimum distance of 23.3 Gm. We additionally demonstrate multiscale photonic structures featuring thermal-wavelength-scale Mie resonant geometries and characterize their broadband Mie resonance-driven emissivity enhancement and acceleration distance reduction. More broadly, our results highlight new possibilities for simultaneously controlling optical and thermal response over broad wavelength ranges in ultralight nanophotonic structures.
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