materials and coatings
New Methods in Preparing and Purifying Nanomaterials
Sometimes called white graphite, affordable and plentiful hBN possesses the same kind of layered molecular structure as graphite. In graphite, this structure has allowed next-generation nanomaterials like carbon nanotubes and graphene to be produced. With hBN, however, the process of converting the substance into boron nitride nanotubes (BNNT) has been too difficult to yield commercial quantities. Glenn innovators have created several new methods that could enable greater adoption of this unique nanomaterial. In the initial stage, the starter reactant is mixed with a selected set of chemicals (a metal chloride, for example) and an activation agent (such as sodium fluoride). This mixture causes hBN to become less resistant to intercalation. The intercalated product can then be exfoliated by heating the material in air, and giving the material a final rinse with a liquid-phase ferric chloride salt to dissolve any embedded impurities without damaging its internal structure. These efficiently exfoliated nanomaterials can be used to form advanced composite materials (e.g., layered with aluminum oxide to form hBN/alumina ceramic composites). Nanomaterials fabricated from hBN can also take advantage of the material's unique combination of being an electrical insulator with high thermal conductivity for applications ranging from microelectronics to energy harvesting. Glenn's innovations have enabled a significantly improved matrix composite material with the potential to make a significant impact on the commercial materials market.
Materials and Coatings
Carbon Fiber-Carbon Nanotube Yarn Hybrid Reinforcement
NASA's new material is a toughened triaxial braid made from ductile carbon nanotube (CNT) yarn hybridized with carbon fiber, which is ultimately used as reinforcement material to make toughened polymer matrix composites. The CNT yarn component of the reinforcement is solely responsible for adding toughness, while the processes used to optimize the fiber braiding parameters and tensile properties of the carbon fiber-CNT yarn hybrid tow material determine the overall improvement in tensile strength for resin impregnated fiber tows. Bundles of continuous carbon nanotube yarns are combined with a similar format of carbon fiber, yielding an easily scalable process. Advantages of the material include reduced cost by eliminating use of toughening agents, increased ability to conform to highly complex geometries, greater environmental stability compared to aramid fiber reinforcements such as Kevlar, and possibly decreased density. Many hybrid reinforcements exhibit interfacial compatibility issues, which could lead to premature failure via crack propagation at the polymer matrix interface. In contrast, chemical similarities between the CNT yarn and carbon fiber constituents impart NASA's hybrid reinforcement material with excellent interfacial compatibility. Potential applications include aerospace components, composite pressure vessels, wind turbine blades, automotive components, prosthetics, sporting equipment, construction reinforcement material, and other use-cases where strength-to-weight ratio is of utmost importance.