materials and coatings
The Aerofoam composites have superior thermal and acoustic insulation properties when compared to conventional polyimide foams. In addition, they provide greater structural integrity than the fragile aerogel materials can provide independently. In general, polymer foams can provide excellent thermal insulation, and polyimide foams have the additional advantage of excellent high-temperature behavior and flame resistance compared to other polymer systems (they do not burn or release noxious chemicals). Incorporating aerogel material into the polyimide foam as described by this technology creates a composite that has been demonstrated to provide additional performance gains, including 25% lower thermal conductivity with no compromise of the structural integrity and high-temperature behavior of the base polyimide foam. The structural properties of Aerofoam are variable based on its formulation, and it can be used in numerous rigid and flexible foams of varying densities. Aerofoam has a number of potential commercial applications, including construction, consumer appliances, transportation, electronics, healthcare, and industrial equipment. In addition, these high-performance materials may prove useful in applications that require insulation that can withstand harsh environments, including process piping, tanks for transporting and storing hot or cold fluids, ship and boat building, and aerospace applications.
3D Printed Polymer Aerogels
NASA GRC has developed several different 3D printing techniques to fabricate polymer aerogel structures; different techniques are suitable for different polymer aerogel formulations. In general, the methods entail forming a first liquid comprising a polymer precursor and cross-linker, forming a second liquid comprising a catalyst for reacting a polymer precursor to form a polymer, then 3D printing the aerogel structure with a mixture of the two liquids onto or into a medium. Specifically, NASA's polymer aerogel 3D printing techniques include: direct syringe printing, dual-syringe printing with static mixing head, direct syringe printing of photocurable formulations, and a unique rapid prototyping method involving a sacrificial bath. The direct syringe process relies upon gelation to occur once the gel is extruded from the print head to the substrate. In the dual-syringe printing process, one syringe contains polyamic acid and the other contains a catalyst. These are mixed in a static mixing head to allow for curing/gelation upon extrusion. For direct syringe printing of photocurable polymer aerogel formulations, a UV pen and array follow the printed gel during extrusion to induce gelation. Finally, the rapid prototyping method uses a bath of highly viscosity, low shear gel that provides a low drag, flexible yet supportive medium in which to print the polymer aerogel. In other embodiments, a bath of polyamic acid is used while cross-linkers and catalysts are introduced via printing, or vice versa (polyamic acid is introduced via printing into a bath of cross-linkers and catalysts). In addition to complex geometries, these layered 3D printing processes allow for the fabrication of chemically-bonded (cross-linked) structures composed of layers of different polymer aerogel formulations (i.e., fabrication of structures with tailored chemistries / properties). Previously, joining different polymer aerogel formulations into a single structure required the fabrication of different formulations using individual molds and joining them using an adhesive, potentially introducing weak fracture points.
Power Generation and Storage
NEW CFC Front Image
Cryogenic Flux Capacitor
Storage and transfer of fluid commodities such as oxygen, hydrogen, natural gas, nitrogen, argon, etc. is an absolute necessity in virtually every industry on Earth. These fluids are typically contained in one of two ways; as low pressure, cryogenic liquids, or as a high pressure gases. Energy storage is not useful unless the energy can be practically obtained ("un-stored") as needed. Here the goal is to store as many fluid molecules as possible in the smallest, lightest weight volume possible; and to supply ("un-store") those molecules on demand as needed in the end-use application. The CFC concept addresses this dual storage/usage problem with an elegant charging/discharging design approach. The CFC's packaging is ingeniously designed, tightly packing aerogel composite materials within a container allows for a greater amount of storage media to be packed densely and strategically. An integrated conductive membrane also acts as a highly effective heat exchanger that easily distributes heat through the entire container to discharge the CFC quickly, it can also be interfaced to a cooling source for convenient system charging; this feature also allows the fluid to easily saturate the container for fast charging. Additionally, the unit can be charged either with cryogenic liquid or from an ambient temperature gas supply, depending on the desired manner of refrigeration. Finally, the heater integration system offers two promising methods, both of which have been fabricated and tested, to evenly distribute heat throughout the entire core, both axially and radially.
Conformal, Lightweight, Aerogel-Based Antenna
This CLAS-ACT is a lightweight, active phased array conformal antenna comprised of a thin multilayer microwave printed circuit board built on a flexible aerogel substrate using new methods of bonding. The aerogel substrate enables the antenna to be fitted onto curved surface. NASA's prototype operates at 11-15 GHz (Ku-band), but the design could be scaled to operate in the Ka-band (26 to 40 GHz). The antenna element design incorporates a dual stacked patch for wide bandwidth to operate on both the uplink and downlink frequencies with a common aperture. These elements are supported by a flexible variant of aerogel that allows the material to be thick in comparison to the wavelength of the signal with little to no additional weight. The conformal antenna offers advantages of better aerodynamics for the airframe, and potentially offers more physical area to either broadcast further distances or to broadcast at a higher data rate. The intended application for this antenna is for UAVs that need more than line of sight communications for command and control but cannot accommodate a large satellite dish. Examples may be UAVs intended for coastal monitoring, power line monitoring, emergency response, and border security where remote flying over large areas may be expected. Smaller UAVs may benefit greatly from the conformal antenna. Another possible application is a UAV mobile platform for Ku-band satellite communication. With the expectation that 5G will utilize microwave frequencies this technology may be of interest to other markets outside of satellite communications. For example, the automotive industry could benefit from a light weight conformal phased array for embedded radar. Also, the CLAS-ACT could be used for vehicle communications or even vehicle to vehicle communications.
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