Researchers from NASA are developing nano-sized sensors based on graphene. The potential applications are chemical sensors (detecting atmosphere atomic traces of oxygen and other elements) and strain sensors (for detecting strains in airplane wings or spacecrafts buses). The researchers are fabricating relatively large and high quality graphene using CVD and are now applying these to sensors.

The team wants to develop small, low mass and low-power chemical detectors that could measure the amount of atomic oxygen in the upper atmosphere - for its role in creating atmospheric drag (which can cause orbiting spacecraft to lose altitude prematurely and plunge to Earth). When graphene oxidizes it changes the electrical resistance - and this can be used to measure oxygen density. Graphene could also be used to measure methane, carbon monoxide and other gases.

A large piece of graphene has electrical properties which are sensitive to detecting stresses. The idea is to build autonomous sensors that can be deployed easily in aircrafts or spaceships.