materials and coatings
3D-Printed Composites for High Temperature Uses
NASA's technology is the first successful 3D-printing of high temperature carbon fiber filled thermoset polyimide composites. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) of carbon-filled RTM370 is followed by post-curing to achieve higher temperature capability, resulting in a composite part with a glass transition temperature of 370 °C. SLS typically uses thermoplastic polymeric powders and the resultant parts have a useful temperature range of 150-185 °C, while often being weaker compared to traditionally processed materials. Recently, higher temperature thermoplastics have been manufactured into 3D parts by high temperature SLS that requires a melting temperature of 380 °C, but the usable temperature range for these parts is still under 200 °C. NASA's thermoset polyimide composites are melt-processable between 150-240 °C, allowing the use of regular SLS machines. The resultant parts are subsequently post-cured using multi-step cycles that slowly heat the material to slightly below its glass transition temperature, while avoiding dimensional change during the process. This invention will greatly benefit aerospace companies in the production of parts with complex geometry for engine components requiring over 300 °C applications, while having a wealth of other potential applications including, but not limited to, printing legacy parts for military aircraft and producing components for high performance electric cars.
materials and coatings
Soft Magnetic Nanocomposite for High-Temperature Applications
Commercial soft magnetic cores used in power electronics are limited by core loss and decreased ferromagnetism at high temperatures. Extending functional performance to high temperatures allows for increased power density in electric systems with fixed power output and elevated operating temperature. The innovators at Glenn developed a unique composition and process to improve the temperature capability of the material. Nanocomposite soft magnetic materials are typically comprised of a combination of raw materials including iron, silicon, niobium, boron, and copper. Instead of niobium, NASA's material utilizes small cobalt and tantalum additions. The raw materials are combined to form an amorphous precursor through melt spinning. NASA's innovation with the fabrication lies in the thermal annealing step, which nucleates and crystallizes the precursor to form the composite structure of the material. By adjusting the temperature and magnetic field of the thermal annealing step, Glenn's process results in good coupling between the crystalline and amorphous matrix phases. Innovators at Glenn demonstrated the temperature robustness using small test cores of their material and are investigating additional quality attributes compared to other well-known soft magnetic materials (see two Figures below).
System for In-situ Defect Detection in Composites During Cure
NASA's System for In-situ Defect (e.g., porosity, fiber waviness) Detection in Composites During Cure consists of an ultrasonic portable automated C-Scan system with an attached ultrasonic contact probe. This scanner is placed inside of an insulated vessel that protects the temperature-sensitive components of the scanner. A liquid nitrogen cooling systems keeps the interior of the vessel below 38°C. A motorized X-Y raster scanner is mounted inside an unsealed cooling container made of porous insulation boards with a cantilever scanning arm protruding out of the cooling container through a slot. The cooling container that houses the X-Y raster scanner is periodically cooled using a liquid nitrogen (LN2) delivery system. Flexible bellows in the slot opening of the box minimize heat transfer between the box and the external autoclave environment. The box and scanning arm are located on a precision cast tool plate. A thin layer of ultrasonic couplant is placed between the transducer and the tool plate. The composite parts are vacuum bagged on the other side of the tool plate and inspected. The scanning system inside of the vessel is connected to the controller outside of the autoclave. The system can provide A-scan, B-scan, and C-scan images of the composite panel at multiple times during the cure process. The in-situ system provides higher resolution data to find, characterize, and track defects during cure better than other cure monitoring techniques. In addition, this system also shows the through-thickness location of any composite manufacturing defects during cure with real-time localization and tracking. This has been demonstrated for both intentionally introduced porosity (i.e., trapped during layup) as well processing induced porosity (e.g., resulting from uneven pressure distribution on a part). The technology can be used as a non-destructive evaluation system when making composite parts in in an oven or an autoclave, including thermosets, thermoplastics, composite laminates, high-temperature resins, and ceramics.
Recyclable Feedstocks for Additive Manufacturing
NASA's new technique for generating recyclable feedstocks for on-demand additive manufacturing employs the high-yield reversibility of the Diels-Alder reaction between maleimide and furan functionalities, utilizing the exceedingly favorable interaction between specific chemical functionalities, often termed "click reactions" due to their rapid rate and high efficiency. Integration of these moieties within a polymer coating on epoxy microparticle enables reversible assembly into macroscopic, free-standing articles. This click chemistry can be activated and reversed through the application of heat. Monomer species can be used to incorporate these functionalities into polyimide materials, which provide excellent mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties for space applications. Copoly (carbonate urethane) has been shown to be a viable coating material in the generation of polymer-coated epoxy microparticle systems and is amenable to being processed through a variety of approaches (e.g., filaments and slurries for 3D printing, compression molding, etc.). The polymeric materials are grown from the surfaces of in-house fabricated epoxy microparticles. The thermal and mechanical properties of the microparticles can be readily tuned by changes in composition. There are a number of potential applications for this NASA technology ranging from use of these materials for recyclable/repurpose-able articles (structural, decorative, etc.) to simple children's toys. More demanding uses such as for replacement parts in complex industrial systems are also possible. For long term space missions, it is envisioned that these feedstocks would be integrated into secondary spacecraft structures such that no additional concerns would be introduced due to in-space chemical reactions and no additional mass would be required.
materials and coatings
Oxide Dispersion Strengthened Medium Entropy Alloy
NASA's ODS-MEA maintains properties up to 1100°C and is not susceptible to deleterious phase changes when exposed to extreme temperatures, an issue ubiquitous to Ni- based superalloys such as Inconel-625 and Inconel-718. Yttria particles are dispersed throughout the alloy to maximize strength and creep resistance at high temperatures using a novel fabrication technique. This technique employs an acoustic mixer to stir nano-scale Yttria oxide powder within a metallic matrix powder, creating a film of Yttria surrounding the larger metallic powder particles. Solid components are then produced from this mixture via SLM, during which the laser disperses the Yttria particles throughout the microstructure. Ultimately, the process eliminates the many expensive and time-consuming steps in the production of ODS alloys via traditional mechanical alloying. NASA's process has been shown to fabricate components with 10x improvement in creep rupture life at 1100°C and provides a 30% increase in strength over what is currently possible with 3D printed parts. The new ODS-MEA composition may find applications where ODS alloys are currently used (e.g., those involving extreme thermal environments). Applications may also include areas where such properties are desirable but the resource-intensive nature and/or inability to produce highly complex geometries via conventional processes ultimately renders their use uneconomical or infeasible. Such uses include gas turbine components (for which increasing inlet temperature enables improved efficiency) for power generation, propulsion (rockets, jet engines, etc.), industrial processes, nuclear energy applications, and sample preparation equipment in the mining and cement production industries, among many others.