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Soft Landing of Spacecraft on Energy-Absorbing Self-Deployable Cushions

A report proposes the use of cold hibernated elastic memory (CHEM) foam structures to cushion impacts of small (1 to 50 kg) exploratory spacecraft on remote planets. Airbags, which are used on larger (800 to 1,000 kg) spacecraft have been found to (1) be too complex for smaller spacecraft; (2) provide insufficient thermal insulation between spacecraft and ground; (3) bounce on impact, thereby making it difficult to land spacecraft in precisely designated positions; and (4) be too unstable to serve as platforms for scientific observations. A CHEM foam pad according to the proposal would have a glass-transition temperature (Tg) well above ambient temperature. It would be compacted, at a temperature above Tg, to about a tenth or less of its original volume, then cooled below Tg, then installed on a spacecraft without compacting restraints. Upon entry of the spacecraft into a planetary atmosphere, the temperature would rise above Tg, causing the pad to expand to its original volume and shape. As the spacecraft decelerated and cooled, the temperature would fall below Tg, rigidifying the foam structure. The structure would absorb kinetic energy during ground impact by inelastic crushing, thus protecting the payload from damaging shocks. Thereafter, this pad would serve as a mechanically stable, thermally insulating platform for the landed spacecraft.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Organic/Inorganic Hybrid Polymer/Clay Nanocomposites

The exfoliation and dispersion of clay particles are improved. A novel class of polymer/clay nanocomposites has been invented in an attempt to develop transparent, lightweight, durable materials for a variety of aerospace applications. As their name suggests, polymer/clay nanocomposites comprise organic/ inorganic hybrid polymer matrices containing platelet- shaped clay particles that have sizes of the order of a few nanometers thick and several hundred nanometers long. Partly because of their high aspect ratios and high surface areas, the clay particles, if properly dispersed in the polymer matrix at a loading level of 1 to 5 weight percent, impart unique combinations of physical and chemical properties that make these nanocomposites attractive for making films and coatings for a variety of industrial applications. Relative to the unmodified polymer, the polymer/clay nanocomposites may exhibit improvements in strength, modulus, and toughness; tear, radiation, and fire resistance; and lower thermal expansion and permeability to gases while retaining a high degree of optical transparency.

Posted in: Briefs

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Less-Toxic Coatings for Inhibiting Corrosion of Aluminum

It is no longer necessary to use highly toxic and carcinogenic chromates. Two recently invented families of conversion- coating processes have been found to be effective in reducing or preventing corrosion of aluminum alloys. These processes offer less-toxic alternatives to prior conversion- coating processes that are highly effective but have fallen out of favor because they generate chromate wastes, which are toxic and carcinogenic. Specimens subjected to these processes were found to perform well in standard salt-fog corrosion tests.

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Liquid Coatings for Reducing Corrosion of Steel in Concrete

Structures could be protected more easily and less expensively. Inorganic coating materials are being developed to slow or stop corrosion of reinforcing steel members inside concrete structures. It is much simpler and easier to use these coating materials than it is to use conventional corrosion-inhibiting systems based on impressed electric currents. Unlike impressed electrical corrosion-inhibiting systems, these coatings do not require continuous consumption of electrical power and maintenance of power-supply equipment. Whereas some conventional systems involve the use of expensive arc-spray equipment to apply the metallic zinc used as the sacrificial anode material, the developmental coatings can be applied by use of ordinary paint sprayers.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Processable Polyimides Containing APB and Reactive End Caps

Properties can be tailored through choice of proportions of dianhydrides and APB. Imide copolymers that contain 1,3-bis (3- aminophenoxy) benzene (APB) and other diamines and dianhydrides and that are terminated with appropriate amounts of reactive end caps have been invented. The reactive end caps investigated thus far include 4-phenylethynyl phthalic anhydride (PEPA), 3-amino- phenoxy-4'- phenylethynyl benzophenone (3-APEB), maleic anhydride (MA), and 5-norbornene-2,3-dicarboxylic anhydride [also known as nadic anhydride (NA)]. The advantage of these copolyimides terminated with reactive groups, relative to other polyimides terminated with reactive groups, is a combination of (1) higher values of desired mechanical-property parameters and (2) greater ease of processing into useful parts.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Rod/Coil Block Copolyimides for Ion-Conducting Membranes

Lithium cells and fuel cells could function over wider temperature ranges. Rod/coil block copolyimides that exhibit high levels of ionic conduction can be made into diverse products, including dimensionally stable solid electrolyte membranes that function well over wide temperature ranges in fuel cells and in lithium-ion electrochemical cells. These rod/coil block copolyimides were invented to overcome the limitations of polymers now used to make such membranes. They could also be useful in other electrochemical and perhaps some optical applications, as described below.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Scandia-and-Yttria-Stabilized Zirconia for Thermal Barriers

These compositions offer thermal stability greater than that of yttria-stabilized zirconia. Zirconia stabilized with both scandia and yttria in suitable proportions has shown promise of being a superior thermal-barrier coating (TBC) material, relative to zirconia stabilized with yttria only. More specifically, a range of compositions in the zirconia/scandia/yttria material system has been found to afford increased resistance to deleterious phase transformations at temperatures high enough to cause deterioration of yttria- stabilized zirconia.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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