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Self-stabilization of light sails by damped internal degrees of freedom

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posted on 2023-01-11, 23:05 authored by M. Z. Rafat, Holger R. Dullin, Boris T. Kuhlmey, Alessandro Tuniz, Haoyuan Luo, Dibyendu Roy, Sean Skinner, Tristram J. Alexander, Michael S. Wheatland, C. Martijn de Sterke
We consider the motion of a light sail that is accelerated by a powerful laser beam. We derive the equations of motion for two proof-of-concept sail designs with damped internal degrees of freedom. Using linear stability analysis we show that perturbations of the sail movement in all lateral degrees of freedom can be damped passively. This analysis also shows complicated behaviour akin to that associated with exceptional points in PT-symmetric systems in optics and quantum mechanics. The excess heat that is produced by the damping mechanism is likely to be substantially smaller than the expected heating due to the partial absorption of the incident laser beam by the sail.

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