Materials and Coatings
Materials and Coatings
See for yourself how NASA materials and coatings can solve real-world problems.
Self-Healing Low-Melt Polyimides
There are multiple space-related systems that can benefit from high performance, thin film, self-healing/sealing systems. Space vehicles and related ground support equipment can contain miles of wire, much of which is buried inside structures making it very difficult to access for inspection and repair. Space-based inflatable structures, solar panels, and astronauts performing extra-vehicular activities are subject to being struck by micrometeoroids and orbital debris. Self-healing or sealing layers on inflatables, solar panels and spacesuits would increase the safety and survivability of astronauts as well as the survivability and functionality of inflatables and solar panels. Self-healing insulation on wiring would greatly improve the reliability and safety of systems containing such wiring and reduce inspection and repair time over the lifetime of those systems. This technology combines the use of a self-sealing low melt, high performance polyimide film that exhibits the ability, when cut, for separated edges to slowly flow back together and seal itself, with the options of a laminate system and the inclusion of healant microcapsules that, when broken, release healant which can then additionally assist in the healing process. Combinations of the healing approaches can be enabling to the healing process proceeding at a much greater rate and dual mode healing approach can also allow for healing of a larger area.
Niobium Titanium Nitride Thin Film Coating
The Niobium Titanium Nitride (NbTiN) Thin Film Coating can optically couple light to a bolometric detector, which is suspended on an ultra-thin dielectric membrane. The coating can also filter out low frequency spectral components, which would increase the photon-limited noise of the detector. NbTiN thin film coatings are fabricated on dielectric substrates using a specialized reactive sputtering co-deposition process. Two different sputtering sources are used, in which one source contains a niobium sputtering target and the other contains a titanium sputtering target. The niobium and titanium are deposited in a nitrogen-rich environment. NbTiN coating can be used by depositing it on one side of an ultra-thin silicon membrane and have a well-defined optical impedance requirement for a specific application. NbTiN coating can be deposited on non-silicon membranes as well. The NbTiN coating have low intrinsic stress, which makes it mechanically compatible with integration on ultra-thin dielectric membranes. The coating possesses the optical impedance required for a high optical efficiency absorption. Furthermore, the coating has a very low superconducting transition temperature, which enables it to filter out radiation at certain frequencies. The NbTiN coating is especially useful for ultrasensitive cryogenic bolometric detector applications. The NbTiN coating can be fabricated in a reproducible manner, while simultaneously not complicating the fabrication process of detector architectures.
Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) 370 Resin for High-Temperature Applications
RTM370 imide resin was developed to address the limitations of conventional imide resins, which are generated from commercially available symmetrical biphenyl dianhydride and oxydianiline (ODA). These resins form symmetrical dianhydride or diamine compounds that result in a substance with much higher viscosity than is viable for RTM, RFI, and VARTM. RTM370 harnesses the unique properties of asymmetric biphenyl dianhydride (a-BPDA) used in combination with a kinked ODA and a 4-(Phenylethynyl) phthalic anhydride endcap to form a mixture that can be melted without the use of solvents, and achieve the desired low-melt viscosity. RTM370 displays a high softening temperature (Tg = 370°C) and can be melted at 260-280°C. It can then be injected into fiber preforms under pressure (200 psi) or through a vacuum (VARTM) to form composites with excellent toughness. The resin can also be made into powder prepregs by melting the resin powders so that they fuse onto fibers. Recently, carbon fiber filled RTM370 imide resins have been fabricated into composites by laser sintering. This exciting advancement in additive manufacturing represents a new frontier for high-temperature composites. Not only are RTM370 composites lightweight, durable, and impact-resistant, they also possess outstanding abrasion resistance and significant thermo-oxidative stability (as demonstrated in long-term isothermal aging at 288°C for 1,000 hours). In summary, this groundbreaking approach yields a vastly superior resin for fabricating high-quality composites with improved performance, durability, and adaptability. RTM370's unique, solvent-free melt process is simpler, more environmentally friendly, and more cost-effective than competing systems, lending it broad appeal for a variety of Earth-based applications.
Creating Low Density Flexible Ablative Materials
The low density flexible ablator can be deployed by mechanical mechanisms or by inflation and is comparable in performance to its rigid counterparts of the same density and composition. Recent testing in excess of 400W/cm2 demonstrated that the TPS char has good structural integrity and retains similar flexibility to the virgin material, there by eliminating potential failure due to fluttering and internal stress buildup as a result of pyrolysis and shrinkage of the system. These flexible ablators can operate at heating regimes where state of the art flexible TPS (non-ablative) will not survive. Flexible ablators enable and improve many missions including (1) hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerators or other deployed concepts delivering large payload to Mars and (2) replacing rigid TPS materials there by reducing design complexity associated with rigid TPS materials resulting in reduced TPS costs.
New Dielectric Material for High-Performance, Solid-State Ultracapacitors
NASA’s technology is a dielectric materials formulation comprising polymers, organic binders, solvents, and surfactants, formulated together with a ceramic perovskite nanopowder. The ceramic nanopowder can be optimized for the required dielectric properties of capacitance, voltage breakdown, and leakage. This involves the addition of dopants or the use of advanced coatings on the powder particulates, and subsequent thermal treatments. The rheology of the formulation can be adjusted to work with a variety of coating or printing methods, from conventional thick-film methods to advanced inkjet or direct-write 3D printing methods used for printed electronics. 3D printing provides the ease of printed manufacturing along with the deposition of thinner layers (e.g., 5 microns in thickness vs. 50-100 micron layer via thick-film methods). Individual devices can then be formed in multilayer arrangements, or stacked and packaged as required for the given device application. The ink composition is a careful blend of polyimide or polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) polymers, solvents, surfactants, and barium titanate nanopowders. Proper ratios are needed for viscosity and processability (e.g., nanopowder wetting and dispersion), along with the optimal ultracapacitor device performance.
Polyamides are polymers that are similar to polyimides (another polymer that has been developed for use in aerogels). However, because the amide link is a single chain while the imide link is a ring structure, polyamide aerogels can be made less stiff than polyimides, even though a similar fabrication process is used. The precursor materials can be made from any combination of diamine and diacid chloride. Furthermore, NASA Glenn researchers have found methods for using combinations of diamines and disecondary amines to produce polyamide aerogels with tunable glass transition temperatures, for greater control of features such as flexibility or water-resistance. In the first step of the fabrication process, an oligomeric solution is produced that is stable and can be prepared and stored indefinitely as stock solutions prior to cross-linking. This unique feature allows for the preparation and transport of tailor-made polyamide solutions, which can later be turned into gels via the addition of a small amount of cross-linker. When the cross-linking agent is added, the solution can be cast in a variety of forms such as thin films and monoliths. To remove the solvent, one or more solvent exchanges can be performed, and then the gel is subjected to supercritical drying to form a polyamide aerogel. NASA Glenn's polyamide aerogels can be fully integrated with the fabrication techniques and products of polyimide aerogel fabrication, so hybrid materials which have the properties of both classes are easily prepared. As the first aerogels to be composed of cross-linked polyamides, these materials combine flexibility and transparency in a way that sets them apart from all other polymeric aerogels.
Adaptive Thermal Management System
Efficient thermal management has long been an issue in both commercial systems and in the extreme environments of space. In space exploration and habitation, significant challenges are experienced in providing fluid support systems such as cryogenic storage, life support, and habitats; or thermal control systems for launch vehicle protection, environmental heat management, or electronic instruments. Furthermore, these systems operate in dynamic, transient modes and often under extremes of temperature or pressure. The current technical requirements associated with the thermal management of these systems result in control issues as well as significant life-cycle costs. To combat these issues, the Adaptive Thermal Management System (ATMS) was developed to help provide the capability for tanks, structural walls, or composite substrate materials to switch functionality (conductive or insulative) depending on environmental conditions or applied stimuli. As a result, the ATMS provides the ability to adapt between both heating and cooling modes within a single system. For example, shape memory alloy (SMA) elements are used to actuate at certain design temperatures to create a conductive bridge between two metal plates allowing broad-area heat rejection from the hotter surface. Upon cooling to the lower design set-point, the SMA elements return to their original shapes, thereby breaking the conductive path and returning the system to its overall insulative state. This technology has the potential to be applied to any system that would have the need for a self-regulating thermal management system that allows for heat transfer from one side to another.
High-Performance Polyimide Powder Coatings
Powder coatings are used throughout industry to coat a myriad of metallic objects. This method of coating has gained popularity because it conserves materials and eliminates volatile organic compounds. Resins traditionally chosen for powder coatings have low melting points that enable them to melt and flow into a smooth coating before being cured to a durable surface. High-performance resins, such as Teflon, nylon, and polyimide, have not been found suitable for use in powder coatings because of their high melting points. However, KSC's newly developed polyamic acid resins with low melting points can be used in a powder coating. These polyamic acid resins, when sprayed onto metal surfaces, can be cured in conventional powder coating ovens to deliver high-performance polyimide powder coatings. The polyimide powder coatings offer superior heat and electrical stability as well as superior chemical resistance over other types of powder coatings.
Silicon Oxide Coated Aluminized Polyimide Film Radiator Coating
The SiOx Coated Aluminized Polyimide Film Radiator Coating uses all the exposed surfaces on the six sides of a CubeSat as radiators. All the internal components are thermally coupled to the radiators. Waste heat from the internal components is transferred by conduction to the radiators through its aluminum structure or frame. SiOx thin film coated aluminized polyimide film is used as the radiator coating. Its total thickness is approximately 0.05 mm, which is predominately the polyimide film thickness. Polyimide film is known commercially as Kapton. The coating is bonded to the CubeSat exterior by using an acrylic transfer adhesive. SiOx Coated Aluminized Polyimide Film Radiator Coatings absorptance and emittance can be tailored to meet the component thermal requirements by altering the SiOx thickness. Since the SiOx is a thin film, altering its thickness has no significant effect on the total thickness of the radiator coating. An indium tin oxide (ITO) thin film can be added to make the coating conductive, if needed, without affecting the absorptance or emittance. This coating, with or without ITO, can be used for various CubeSat applications. By tailoring the absorptance and emittance of this coating, external MLI blankets and active heater control are eliminated. The thermal connection between heat generating components and the battery eliminates the need for a battery heater.
View more patents