High Atomic Number Coatings for Fabrics

Materials and Coatings
High Atomic Number Coatings for Fabrics (LAR-TOPS-350)
Improved durability using a low atomic number metal tie down layer
NASA Langley Research Center has developed an innovation to promote the adhesion and improve the durability of high atomic number metal coatings on oxygen- or hydroxyl-rich surfaces. This new approach is useful for building radiation shields via the Z-grading method, the process of layering metal materials with different atomic numbers to provide radiation protection for protons, electrons, and x-rays. This invention enables Z-graded coatings to be applied to lower cost and lighter weight substrates, such as glass fiber fabrics, while maintaining the durability and flexibility needed for spacecraft electronics, radiation protective clothing, and other applications.

The Technology
High atomic number materials, such as tantalum, do not bond well to oxygen- and hydroxyl-rich surfaces, such as glass fibers. These metals often form surface oxides when layered on glass fabric, resulting in flaking of the high atomic number material off the fabric during cutting, folding, and/or handling. To improve coating durability, this invention applies a lower atomic number metal as a tie down layer first before applying the high atomic number metal layer. The tie down layer reduces oxide formation between the substrate and the high atomic number material, promoting adhesion. Titanium has shown strong adhesion with different metals and is effective at reducing oxide formation when diffusion bonded to itself or other materials. It has been shown to be effective at improving durability when thermally sprayed onto a glass fiber fabric as a tie down layer for a subsequent tantalum layer (also applied via RF plasma spray). The titanium layer is only approximately 1 mil thick but results in strong adhesion of the tantalum layer by inter-metallic or diffusion bonding. A thermal spray process may be used, as well. This innovation enables the delivery of high atomic metal coating on glass fiber fabrics and other polymeric substrates that are lower cost, lighter weight, and durable to form a flexible cloth material with Z-graded radiation shielding. Coated samples have been produced and the technology is currently at a technology readiness level (TRL) of 4 (prototype).
Purchased from Shutterstock on 1/13/2022. Licence 1594544836 Photograph comparing glass fiber fabric with RF plasma sprayed tantalum layer (top, note presence of flaking) and RF plasma sprayed tantalum and titanium tie down layer (bottom)
  • Thin lower atomic metal tie down promotes adhesion of higher atomic metal without increasing weight
  • Allows higher atomic metals to be sprayed on inexpensive materials, such as glass fibers
  • Can be used on a variety of fabrics depending on temperature tolerance
  • Significantly increases durability and flexibility of Z-shielding coatings on fabric for medical shielding
  • Lower atomic metal tie down can be applied via thermal spray for commercial accessibility

  • Medical: Radiation protection clothing
  • Building Materials: Radiation shielding for walls and ceilings
  • Electronics: Electromagnetic interference and radio frequency shielding
Technology Details

Materials and Coatings
LAR-19694-1 LAR-19694-1-CON
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